ZB

The 27yo Kiwi who's expanded his cafe businesses during Covid

Author
Georgina Campbell, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 7 Apr 2022, 7:32am
Swimsuit Coffee owner Tait Burge. Photo / Georgina Campbell
Swimsuit Coffee owner Tait Burge. Photo / Georgina Campbell

The 27yo Kiwi who's expanded his cafe businesses during Covid

Author
Georgina Campbell, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 7 Apr 2022, 7:32am

Swimsuit Coffee owner Tait Burge is swimming against the tide of cafe closures and has expanded his business from Wellington's central city to the suburbs. 

The Covid-19 pandemic has not stopped the 27-year-old from pursuing his goal of opening three sites by the time he's 30. 

Swimsuit Coffee on Dixon St in the city was open for 10 months before Covid-19 first arrived in the country in 2020. 

At the end of last year, Burge opened his second cafe in Miramar just weeks before Omicron knocked on our door. 

When the site on Park Rd became available in November, Burge acknowledged the timing wasn't ideal. 

"But was one of those things where if we didn't act on it, we probably wouldn't have another chance to do anything here. 

"We kind of thought if people are working from home, then we will go to them." 

Burge lives in the neighbouring suburb of Seatoun and has always wanted to open a cafe in the eastern suburbs. The site is one of the last stand-alone buildings of its kind in Miramar facing the morning sun, Burge said. 

He had a gut feeling it could work, so he went for it. 

With the help of some talented friends, Burge completed the cafe's fitout within 27 days, on top of his normal hours at the cafe in town. 

"It was pretty relentless and you kind of had to smile about it, or else you're just going to get drained and kind of burnt out." 

Swimsuit Coffee's Miramar site. Photo / Georgina Campbell 

Burge said because he was still quite young, he got itchy feet and wanted to keep moving the business along. 

"We're not letting Covid pull us back or stop us, although obviously there's been a lot of hiccups along the way." 

In some instances, the pandemic has sped up business decisions like an iced drink range Burge wanted to launch when two sites were up and running. 

Instead, the range was launched in the middle of winter when just the CBD site was open to create another revenue stream. 

It ended up being a success with about 200 bottles flying out the door weekly. 

Operating a new cafe in the middle of the Omicron wave on top of an existing business hasn't been all smooth sailing. 

There have been times where Burge has "freaked out", but he has learnt to take a step back and consider each challenge as something to beat. 

Support from other players in the industry has also been important for Burge and he encouraged his peers to reach out for a chat. 

Burge said this year has been the toughest yet for hospitality and it was upsetting to see other businesses close their doors. 

"It's going to be pretty interesting to see if the city's kind of culture can build back up because I don't think people realise how much of a positive environment hospitality brings to a city. 

"Especially one like Wellington where we're known for really good coffee and food. If all the good ones are going, what's it going to leave?" 

For Swimsuit, Burge described the pandemic as being a wild ride. 

The cafe in Miramar has been doing well, although the level of business can be quite changeable day-to-day. 

While the cafe in the city has been quiet, signs of life are returning. Burge said Saturdays in particular were crazy. 

"I think it's because everyone's working at home so it's kind of switched and everyone wants to go to town on the weekends. 

"Whenever we have a good Saturday, I'm like, alright, the vibes are there, people want that, but it's just a case of just waiting." 

At age 27, there's plenty of time for Burge to achieve his goal of opening three sites by the time he's 30. 

Burge said he "has a feeling" there will be a third Swimsuit coming this year.