Over the lockdown limbo
Paraoa Brewing Co. founder Zenice Gujarathi talks about how they’re surviving the Auckland lockdowns and looking forward to the easing of restrictions for hospitality.
NZBusiness editor Glenn Baker talks to Paraoa Brewing Co founder Zenice Gujarathi about how they’re surviving the Auckland lockdowns and looking forward to the easing of restrictions for hospitality.
NZB: Auckland’s extended lockdown must have been the worst possible timing for your business. How devastating was it to have to close it down so quickly?
Zen: Paraoa opened its doors just four months prior to the lockdown. We were building much-needed momentum and quickly became popular amongst the local community, living up to our values of being ‘the social house where everyone is welcome’. Bigger live concerts such as The Jordan Luck Band and Capital Theatre drew crowds from further south of Auckland and areas up north. We knew we had something unique and brought people the venue that they asked for. The 6pm announcement was a significant blow for us. We were so hopeful and our 28 staff members were really enjoying working at Paraoa. We were left in limbo, with several suppliers who had already dispatched supplies for the next few days. We had to cancel orders and salvage what we had.
NZB: Pivot is a word that gets used a lot, but how did you move forward from those circumstances? What was the plan then, and how is the situation right now?
Zen: Pivot is an interesting word and provides opportunities. Holding an Off-Licence enabled us to get creative. We came up with an in-house unique delivery service during Level 4 that allowed us to deliver Beer, Wine and Cocktails. We managed and minimised the staff on-site, operated with contactless delivery and we provided some joy to our local customers with something a little different. We creatively bottled our bespoke cocktails so people could still enjoy them from their own homes.
NZB: What is your message for other business owners out there still facing uncertainty? What advice can you share from your own experience?
Zen: Keep going, keep thinking, be innovative. There are always opportunities around every corner to help you maintain your business, look after your customers and even grow.
NZB: How are sales of your beers performing? What sales and marketing initiatives have you instigated to help generate revenue from your products?
Zen: We are successfully selling Riggers (1.3L and 2.0L in fully reusable recyclable plastic bottles) of our Paraoa Craft Beer along with our other Craft Brands. Marketing efforts span over various platforms such as social media, traditional media and outdoor. We implement creative campaigns such as competitions and collaboration with other businesses and we have initiated promotions for our food combined with beer or cocktail offers. We decided to change our operating hours for the lockdown to be open daily from 12 noon – 7.30pm. We used to be closed on Mondays and only opened at 4pm on other weekdays at 11am on weekends. The new trading hours helps us keep a good routine, it’s keeping staff engaged and keeps Paraoa active in the community. By demand, we have also introduced a range of pizzas on our existing menu. The customers ask and we provide, they are king.
NZB: Assuming that things will return to some kind of normality early in the New Year, what are your goals for the business going forward?
Zen: We want to continue giving customers an outstanding experience by providing excellent service, delicious food, craft beer, signature cocktails and great live entertainment. Paraoa is fast becoming a known venue amongst New Zealand music artists and labels, bands and other talent to perform at and we would like to arrange more concerts such as The Jordan Luck Concert in 2022. We want to bring our customers more mainstream acts and the artists they would like to see. We also look forward to bringing back all our staff full-time, showing them how much they are valued. Happy staff equals happy customers – our staff help our customers have a great experience. We listen to our customers and attempt as best we can to give them what they want.
Photo: Zen with top Kiwi talent Capital Theatre, who played for the venue launch on 15 July.