Speed-dining Chch's new eating style
Book ahead, eat quickly, prepare to payJOELLE DALLY
Have you struggled to get a restaurant booking in post-quake Christchurch?
If you are planning to dine out in Christchurch, prepare to hustle.
A University of Canterbury study has found only 31 out of Christchurch's 370 CBD restaurants and cafes managed to relocate and reopen within a year of the February 2011 earthquake.
Fewer still relocated within the four avenues.
The study traced about 1000 Christchurch restaurants and cafes and found about 40 per cent were still closed a year after the quake, driving competition for seats.
Senior lecturer Sussie Morrish said most of those still closed were based in the central city.
"Only 8 per cent  had successfully relocated," she said, while a significant number of the inner-city restaurants had "simply disappeared".
Morrish said business for those open was booming. Some eateries were so busy they were giving clientele "departure times".
"They can take [a] 7pm booking but [say] 'you must be out by 8.15pm'," she said.
Strawberry Fare owner Liz Barry said the year after the February quake was "one of the worst of my life". She had hoped to reopen in the original Peterborough St building but, after months waiting for news, eventually realised it would not happen.
"For 60 hours a week, every week, I worked on insurance," she said.
Barry found her new premises in Bealey Ave by chance, noticing it was empty while driving past. "It was just fortuitous . . . they [the former tenants] had just left," she said.
Barry, who also owns Cafe Metro, which relocated from Colombo St to Merivale, said the central city was not attractive to base a business in now, but "will be in time".
"We're very happy where we are. It's good to be going forward positively [after] such a bleak year," she said.
"You just dust yourself off, grit your teeth and carry on."
Barry said customers' expectations had also changed. They appeared to be fussier and quicker to complain than before the quakes, possibly driven by wanting it to be exactly as they remembered it before.
"When we change something on the menu, we get a lot of flak," she said.
C4 chief executive Guy Griffith-Jones said many central-city cafes were still facing insurance issues and the CCDU blueprint had further complicated decision-making.
Many of the cafe, roastery and coffee bean supplier's former clients had just "walked away".
His Lichfield St building was condemned after the September 2010 quake and the business relocated to Tuam St. After the February quake it took some months to reopen. Initially it was "quiet, dusty and loud," he said, but business had improved progressively as streets opened up.
Morrish's study found restaurants reopened quickly where there were existing connections, financial resources and swift payment of business insurance.
TIPS FOR DINING OUT IN POST-QUAKE CHRISTCHURCH
- Book in advance. Restaurants are busy.
- Prepare to eat quickly - many eateries are kicking out diners so they can squeeze in another sitting
- Be nice - staff are sick of customers complaining their new restaurant isn't as good as the last
- Prepare to pay - costs have gone up including wages, rents and food
- © Fairfax NZ News
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