Love your Local: Waikato’s Punnet cafe calls on customers’ help behind the counter

Not only is a family-run café in Waikato inviting customers to dine, it is also seeking assistance behind the counter.

Punnet Eatery in Tamahere has been hit particularly hard by Covid-19, as Omicron cases continue to rise.

Businesses are laying off employees as positive cases and household contacts become isolated, and customer numbers are dwindling.

Haley Bicknell, owner and operator of Punnet, with her son, Tom. Bicknell is requesting community volunteers to help with staff shortages caused by Covid-19.

Haley Bicknell, owner and operator of Punnet, with her son, Tom. Bicknell is requesting community volunteers to help with staff shortages caused by Covid-19.

It’s unsurprising that hospitality is having a difficult time, and Punnet owner-operator Haley Bicknell understands that while her industry may not be as difficult as others, she is bracing for the worst.

Bicknell said that out of the cafe’s 30 employees, up to five have been absent each week due to the virus.

“We’ve been so fortunate that we can make do with the staff we have at the moment,” Bicknell explained.

However, she is aware that the virus will eventually strike them where it hurts, and in an effort to “future-proof” the business, the eatery is asking customers and community members to volunteer a couple of hours of their time to assist when staffing levels reach an all-time low.

The outpouring of support has been overwhelming.

“I’ve received approximately 40 responses from individuals pledging to do whatever it takes to see us through.

“I’ve owned Punnet for nine years and I have a lot of sympathy for businesses that are just getting started and lack a following. Customer loyalty is critical in these trying times.”

For someone who thrives on “cracking on” and having a game plan for everything, it is the uncertainty that Bicknell despises the most.

“I dislike the feeling of being in the dark; you lose sleep and stay up all night. It’s as if we’re learning a new business model with each stage of Covid-19.”

Businesses in New Zealand are losing staff as a result of positive cases and household contacts isolating, and customer numbers have decreased.

Read more • stuff.co.nz

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