Whakatāne takeaways ready to fire up the grill post-lockdown

updated By Mahina Hurkmans
Tane Nicholas at the Nukuhou Cafe and Takeaway - Photo / Facebook

Nukuhou North Café & Takeaway is a popular service for Whakatāne and Waimana communities. Owner-operators Tane Nicholas (Tūhoe) and Tamara Herdman (Ngāti Pukeko) can’t wait to fire the grill, switch on the deep fryers and feed the people this coming Tuesday.

“We’ve got big dreams and we want to do some cool stuff with this place. But like everyone said Rome wasn’t built in a day,” Tamara says.

The couple opened their business Nukuhou North Cafe & Takeaway just three months before they had to close again. The COVID-19 pandemic forced the small rural town to close its businesses, taking away this couple's livelihood.

“It was scary you know, we threw everything on the line. A couple of months later we can’t work, and the bills are huge,” Tane Nicholas says.

Having no way to sell their kai, the couple were forced to give it all away. The positive side is that they were able to help some of the less fortunate in the process.

“Most of the produce we had just boxed it up and handed it out to the whānau. People who were struggling, just gave it to them, any perishables we just gave it away,” Tamara explains.

With the lockdown almost over, the couple are now preparing to bounce back. With a new menu and contactless ordering, Tamara and Tane hope they can offer something different for the community.

“It actually gave us a month to sit down and have a look at our menu planning. Trying to widen our menu and get a little bit more soul food in for our people.

“We are lucky that we are a takeaways business anyway. We had a lot of online and over the phone orders anyway. It could be tricky for some businesses who are trying to adjust and be takeaway as well,” Tamara adds.

As Nukuhou North Café & Takeaway prepares to operate again next week, some businesses will stay closed to ensure the safety of their staff and the community.

Taylor Ulufonua (Te Whānau ā Apanui), owner of CAFE4U in Whakatāne explains why he’ll stay closed.

“That’s our decision at the moment to open at Level 2, because of little things like that. Making our staff feel comfortable and safe.”

There is a concern that some business may not be able to operate again because of the circumstances. These owners are asking their community to support their recovery with their patronage.

“I think it’s about people remembering that McDonald's and KFC. But there’s a lot that are local and are in town that will need to be supported."

Taylor Ulufonua says that he doesn’t see other businesses as competitors, but rather fellow community members trying to feed their whānau.

“I look at them as business owners and we support that, we go and eat at other cafes, not to spy on them or anything. But to support them, because we understand and know that is greatly appreciated and greatly needed.”

The lockdown officially ends at 11:59 pm Monday 27 April, with many takeaway and cafes expecting to open the following morning.