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Roses are red, traffic lights are too: Restaurants lure diners with heart-shaped pizza and Omicron tents

Author
Kirsty Wynn, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sun, 13 Feb 2022, 4:10pm
Head chef of Daisy Chang Jakrapun Imthongbai aka Chef Bong and his wife Kallaya Imthongbai (Lin) sit under the tent. Photo / Supplied
Head chef of Daisy Chang Jakrapun Imthongbai aka Chef Bong and his wife Kallaya Imthongbai (Lin) sit under the tent. Photo / Supplied

Roses are red, traffic lights are too: Restaurants lure diners with heart-shaped pizza and Omicron tents

Author
Kirsty Wynn, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sun, 13 Feb 2022, 4:10pm

From heart-shaped pizzas and romantic tents over tables, which double as an extra layer against Omicron, New Zealand restaurants are doing all they can to lure Valentine's Day diners. 

The hard-hit hospitality industry is hoping Cupid's arrow will fire diners its way and eateries are offering free desserts, glasses of bubbles and special menus to sweeten the deal. 

A survey sent to restaurant managers by the Restaurant Association revealed around 40 per cent said bookings were "a lot worse" than last year. 

Many were offering special deals but some were closed because this year Valentine's Day falls on a Monday. 

At The Proper Pizza Company on O'Connell St in Auckland, Valentine's Day pizza lovers can dine in with a 40cm heart-shaped pizza, two drinks, a small appetiser and fries for $69 – or $59 for those using GrabOne. 

Heart-shaped pizza from The Proper Pizza Company is one of the Valentine's Day specials on offer from restaurants. Photo / Supplied 

Like all good sales, the deal has run the week leading up to tomorrow's international day of romance. 

"We will have candles and perhaps some roses so it will be really lovely," manager Angelica Sosa said. 

"We are open from 11am until 5am so it is going to be a whole day and night of it." 

The restaurant was taking bookings online for the dine-in special. 

At popular Howick eatery Daisy Chang, stunning but simple tents adorn tables, providing an intimate setting but also offering an extra layer of protection from the spread of Omicron. 

The bendy plastic tents were installed when Covid first hit but have proved so popular they have stayed. 

Tents at Howick eatery Daisy Chang were erected to help stop the spread of Covid but also provide an intimate setting. Photo / Supplied 

"People call and request them and for Valentine's Day we will add a bit of bling," said owner Carmen Holmes. 

"When you are sitting under them it is so lovely and intimate you forget the pandemic." 

As well as being romantic, the tents can be easily cleaned between diners and offer an added layer of Omicron protection between tables. 

Daisy Chang is also offering special cocktails and a few signature dishes from Chef Bong, who has also created a Valentine's Day menu for The Apothecary Licensed Eatery next door. 

Soul Bar and Bistro's commercial and events manager Olivia Carter said the waterfront restaurant was offering plenty of outdoor seating and air purifiers to keep romantic couples safe. 

"We know people love our a la carte menu so we are sticking to that but we go above and beyond with food, service, and safety to make sure it is a great experience." 

Open windows and al fresco dining make Soul Bar and Bistro a popular choice for Valentine's Day dining. Photo / Babiche Martens 

The popular Viaduct spot was visited by a positive Covid case on Boxing Day and Carter said the restaurant took precautions above the Ministry of Health recommendations to make sure staff and customers were impacted as little as possible. 

Most restaurants spoken to by the Herald were expecting to be busy tomorrow night or were close to capacity. 

New research from global comparison site Finder forecasts New Zealanders will part with a national outlay of $796.4 million. 

A survey of 1507 respondents revealed loved-up consumers will spend $216 each on average on their significant others. 

Almost $183.4m of that total will be spent on dining out, while $100.9m will be spent on flowers. 

But the cash needs to be spread throughout the weeks and months, said food Instagrammer Nic Chan. 

Chan – who has the Instagram account @chan_can_eat – said the industry was hurting under the red traffic light system and needed support. 

Instagrammer Nic Chan said restaurants had been quiet despite being able to operate under the red traffic light system. Photo / @chan_can_eat 

"As someone who lives to dine and dines to live, I took Freedom Day quite literally and booked the entire day off for a long lunch," Chan said. 

Chan, who dines out several times a week, said the decline in numbers since restaurants opened had become "sadly apparent".  
"Weekends feel like weeknights and on weeknights – some places are either closed or their kitchens close super early. 
 
"I'm truly devastated for the hospo industry, from the smaller independents to the larger conglomerates – it's noticeably quieter out there." 

Restaurant Association chief executive Marisa Bidois said the hospitality industry needs all the love it can get after a tough two years. Photo / Supplied 

Restaurant Association CEO Marisa Bidois said that 88 per cent of restaurants had experienced a downturn in patronage in the red traffic light setting. 

"We want to get the message out there that it is safe to be out supporting your local restaurant in red, there are good procedures in place. 

"We know there are restaurants that are usually closed on Monday but that are opening especially for Valentine's Day so I hope people will get out there and support them." 

Spending on love – where we put the cash on Valentine's Day (Finder.com) 

  • Kiwis plan to spend $796m on Valentine's Day
  • Two in three Kiwis will treat their partner on Valentine's day.
  • Kiwi men are expected to spend an average of $264 each, while women will fork out $170.
  • In true Covid style, $138m will be spent on a date night at home.
  • Restaurants will see $183.4m over the tills.
  • We plan to spend $100m on flowers.