Capers considers delivery option to combat COVID-19 blues


Muddy Waters

24 March 2020

A leading Rotorua food and beverage company is poised to move into meal deliveries in a bid to beat the impact of COVID-19 virus.

Gregg Brown, owner and operator of the Pig & Whistle Historic and Capers Epicurean, told The Mud the group was looking at any way possible to keep going.

At this stage, however, it seems the best option is to start a food-based delivery service.

Gregg said both the Pig & Whistle and Capers closed straight after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the harsh, new measures to combat the pandemic.

“We froze what we could, gave a lot of food away to staff and locked up.

“We are just looking through what our options are.”

He said there seemed to be some confusion as to whether food as pre-prepared meals was an essential service or not. 

An international fast-food chain was advertising its delivery option locally as an essential service – rather than a food pick-up place.

As well, the Hospitality Association had also said in a message that it might be possible the business could fall into that category under a delivery system.

“If deliveries are an option, then we will be looking to launch that sometime very shortly.”

The business hoped it could keep hold of its team of skilled staff, so it could keep “ticking along” and busy in the meantime.

“So, when we do roll around and open, we can’t start from scratch.  People are essential to our business.”

Gregg, who has been in the food and hospitality business since 1995, said they employed about 75 staff, full-time and part-time.

“A lot of suppliers are also relying on us, particularly some of the smaller guys.  So between keeping our staff employed and some of the small suppliers we support in business, we are keen to explore all the options.”

However, the doors to both businesses remained closed.  Gregg said he had never seen anything like the current crisis in his 25 years in business in Rotorua.

“We’ve seen financial turmoil but having this overlaid with that makes it a double-whammy, it’s unique and tough.”

He had been in contact with Labour Member of Parliament and fellow hospitality business owner Tamati Coffee, who had helped provide clarification around new operating options. Hospitality New Zealand had been “incredibly helpful.”

The Rotorua Economic Development Agency had started a chat page for tourism and hospitality.

Depending on the outcome of discussions, the delivery service is expected to get underway soon.  However, designing food packaging and delivery and logistics would take some time.

Gregg didn’t see the current emergency ending any time soon, however.

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