The nation famous for the flat white seems to be willing to wait longer for its coffee fix with the small number of cafe owners choosing to open simply hoping to keep their head above water.

Cafe chain Mojo Coffee has opened just five of its 39 stores. General manager Katy Ellis said the bulk of stores relied on people being back to work in their offices.

“For us in most locations we don’t see that there will be anyone around to buy coffee,” Ellis said. 

“We’ve only reopened those stores where we know there are groups of essential workers or certain government departments that do have a few more people actually in the office.”

Unlike fast food joints, which have enjoyed customers queuing for their fix, business for the cafes has been quiet. Ellis said Mojo Summit on Molesworth Street in Wellington had been the busiest of the five stores yesterday, but still had only seen 30 percent to 40 percent of its normal trade.  

Ellis said there was “no profit at all” in reopening at level 3 and opening other stores would cost more than they would earn.

“We are hoping we have picked the right stores, where there are enough customers for us to get our head above water. But we know that in the other stores it would cost us a lot more to reopen under level 3 than it would to stay closed,” she said.


Aaron Maisey, owner of Hamilton coffee bar Demi Urgos, said the first day of trading had been “steady” but because of the new online ordering system he didn’t have the exact numbers to compare to sales before lockdown.

“For us, anything is better than nothing,” he told BusinessDesk. “It’d be good to just start to get some of the outstanding creditors paid, which is pretty much the only reason we had to reopen.”

While the cafe was not charged rent during lockdown, at level 3 the cost pressure has come back on. With the wage subsidy still supporting staff costs, Maisey said he will be able to keep the business running provided level 3 trading is enough to cover other overheads.

“Based on today I think we should be able to, but then again it is the first day. And I’m expecting it drop off a bit after the initial rush.”

No picnic at level 2 

Mojo's Ellis said hospitality providers were hoping level 2 will come as soon as possible, but they will be “doing it tough” even then.

“In hospitality, a lot of people are not going to survive this unless they get some additional support from government. It will definitely get worse before it gets better,” she said.

“We are hoping to be there in the long term and are working to do that, but it is not an easy challenge.”