Dave Reid helped to keep eight New Zealand prime ministers from Robert Muldoon to John Key safe from harm in his 35 years on the Diplomatic Protection Squad, but he always wanted to try something different.
"Although I loved it right until the last day, I thought if I don't make a change now, I'll never do it."
With a self-imposed 18-month deadline, Reid started researching franchises. The model appealed because it offered business support from the master franchisee.
The Diplomatic Protection Squad required him to keep in good shape with a tough fitness regime, so Reid wanted a healthy option.
Founded in Canada in the 1990s, Pita Pit serves salads, meat or falafel, sauces and cheese wrapped in pita bread as its signature menu item. Nothing is deep fried or microwaved. Even its potato wedges are grilled.
It entered the New Zealand market five years ago and there are now 33 Pita Pits around the country, three of them in Wellington.
Reid wanted a Courtenay Place property, but nothing was available. After 10 months of looking, he signed a lease on part of the former ASB bank property at 98 Victoria St.
It took between $350,000 and $400,000 initial capital investment including the licence to be a franchisee, to fit out the property, order stock and get up and running in October last year.
To meet the demand during the competitive lunchtime trade, Reid has six staff working on a typical weekday. Most are students and some will come in just for a couple of hours to serve office workers coming out for a quick meal.
At first the business was taking more than 100 hours a week of his time, but it is now, on average, a 40-hour week.
Reid ordered fresh produce every day, ran a team of staff and stayed strict on wastage. He enjoyed being his own boss and taking the credit when things went well even if it meant taking the fall for mistakes.
"The hardest thing is always being on call. We have alarms on freezers to alert us if the temperature drops below a certain level.
"The other day, at 4am, my alarm went off because someone forgot to shut the fridge door properly so I had to come in and check it. I must have the phone on 24 hours a day."
The Tawa resident, who recently completed tramping the Tongariro Crossing for the fifth time, said he enjoyed dealing with people on their lunch break because most of them were in a good mood.
On the Diplomatic Protection Squad, he was right by then-PM Helen Clark's side when the twin-engine Piper Aztec they were flying in over the ocean hit severe turbulence and a door flew open.
With another constable, Reid held the door closed until the aircraft landed at Paraparaumu. A frightened Clark said she was "really proud" of his efforts.
"There is never a boring week when you look after a VIP and I was very privileged to see a lot of things going on inside politics. It was a great job, it really was . . . This is totally different. I wanted something outside my comfort zone and this is. But I enjoy it."
STARTING OUT IN BUSINESS
Dave Reid's advice to aspiring franchisees: If you're not business-oriented I think a franchise is the safest option because of the backup support. My advice would be to look at a newer franchise, because if you look at an established one, your best locations are all gone. You must make sure you have enough capital to get it set up really well.
- The Dominion Post
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