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Back in business

How long's the line at McDonald's?

“It's McMassive.”

That Facebook exchange summed up day 1 of a drop to Alert Level 3 in Gisborne as takeaway outlets were inundated with customers and other food and beverage services returned to some sort of normal after the second nationwide lockdown.

Queues of cars waiting in line at McDonald's and KFC grew steadily, with social media reports of a two-hour wait at KFC and one customer posting a photo of notices on the KFC door saying it had run out of coleslaw and lettuce “due to lockdown delays”.

A man who drove through the city centre at around 7pm said he could not believe the line-ups at fast food outlets.

“It was stunning really. So many people taking advantage of the shift to Level 3.

“The KFC vehicle queue was right through the on-site line-up, out on to Cobden Street and around into Gladstone Road well past the Enterprise car yard towards Carnarvon Street.

“The McDonald's line-up occupied the whole of the Treble Court carpark, out into Bright Street and around into Palmerston Road,” he said.

“There were lots of cars waiting at the other burger places as well along the main street.

“I also saw dozens of people waiting on the footpath outside the pizza places.

“I wondered what it must have been like at other times of the day yesterday.

“The staff in those eateries must have been flat out.”

Some were, their challenge compounded by the contactless regulations under Level 3. But they were happy to be back in business.

Bollywood Stars restaurant owner Baljeet Sandhu said he was excited to be operating again, even if it is a partial opening of the business.

“We have made some improvements to how our business operates. We have set up a safe pickup zone at the entrance so nobody can enter the premises.

“It is a preventive measure to keep our staff safe.

“There is a table for orders to be collected and we encourage people to pay via eftpos/paywave.

“We will make arrangements to how to accept cash safely (sanitisation) but at the moment we prefer online orders.”

Mr Sandhu said mask use was mandatory for staff and customers, along with contact tracer scanning.

The business struggled during Level 4, however, this year it was only for two weeks which made it easier for him to cope financially.

“We had some help from the Government with the wage subsidy. Luckily the lockdown was only two weeks this time.”

Angus Maindonald, one of the owners of Zephyr Wainui cafe, said Level 4 made it harder for small businesses to operate in the regions but he was happy with the Government's support measures.

“The Government has done a good job in providing information to us in terms of getting access to the wage subsidy. Trust Tairawhiti was very helpful, especially the business staff there who gave us information to access support as fast as possible.”

Operating in Level 3 required changes.

“We have gone contactless. We had to find a way to do window orders, to have space between people.

“It has been a challenge to change how we do things, for sure. We have limited our operating hours but luckily we have been able to support all our staff with the wage subsidy.”

Nina's Kitchen owner Nadine Weatherley said the second lockdown had been tough.

“It was much harder because it was so quick and we didn't have time to prepare on a particularly bad time of the month — close to the 20th.”

Ms Weatherley said her initial impression of coming out of lockdown yesterday was it was quieter than last year.

Changes to Level 3 guidelines from last year were welcomed by those providing coffee, with click-and-collect coffee on the menu this time.

“It definitely has been a struggle financially waiting for Level 3 but we are very glad to be back open,” AM Espresso manager Holly Reid said.

“We weren't able to open under Level 3 guidelines last year, so I am very grateful to be able to open our doors to the Gizzy locals.

“Closing our doors for two weeks has had a massive effect on us — loss of income and wages for our staff — so we really appreciate the support of the locals and all our loyal customers.

“Our staff are all very excited to be back serving everyone's go-to coffees and our Gizzy-famous Cronuts.

“Come and support a small Gizzy business.”

McDonald's Gisborne franchise owner Pooja Goel said the drive-through reopened with a reduced menu and he requested patience from customers.

“Our suppliers are working very hard so we can serve our full range as soon as possible.”

“Drive-through has been pretty consistent since opening and we are trying to serve our customers as fast as possible.”

“We are operating strictly under Alert Level 3 guidelines. The safety of our staff and customers is paramount. We are taking all the necessary measures, including the use of face masks, gloves, contact tracing, social distancing, contactless service and frequent sanitisation.”

Regional economic development agency Trust Tairawhiti has been working closely with affected outlets.

“We've ensured regular comms have gone out to businesses about the Government support available and how to access it, as well as advice and support available through the trust and our partners,” a trust spokeswoman said.

“Unlike last year, businesses are familiar with lockdowns and how they work, so the degree of uncertainty and unknowns appears much less than last time.

“Businesses have made adjustments and built resilience since the first lockdown and this has resulted in businesses being better prepared to operate remotely and under raised alert levels.”

For information on operating a business in Alert Level 3, see page 10

PENT UP DEMAND: Mcdonalds was busy yesterday following its Level 3 opening. Picture by Ben Cowper