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South Island restaurants, takeaway joints prepare for stricter level 3

Takeaway food is back on the cards from Wednesday for many New Zealanders, with South Island businesses already busy preparing to reopen their doors.

While they were relieved to have some customers return, businesses RNZ spoke to said operating under level 3 wasn't without its challenges.

In Nelson, Burger Culture co-owner Zoe Williams was happy to be reopening even with the stricter rules.

"Face masks to be worn at all times, always wearing gloves and if they touch anything that someone else might have touched or touched their face, then those gloves have to go and a new pair go on or wash their hands," Williams said.

"We kind of have a policy where you have to wash your hands or change your gloves every 15 - 20 minutes or 20 - 30 minutes."

It also meant physical distancing, which she said was no easy task in a small kitchen but they would have staff bubbles in place too.

Even though level 3 was hard, Williams said it needed to be done.

"I think the main things are really just ensuring that our staff are safe and comfortable. That's probably our biggest priority. We don't want anyone coming to work that feel like they aren't safe so we have to make sure that environment is in place then."

In Christchurch, ChiChi Kitchen owner Eugene Chang had been preparing to welcome back customers since lockdown started.

"We actually changed our website to take online payment through our website. People who place an order can also make an online payment for delivery services or there is contactless pick up."

As the chef, he was unsure about getting supplies before opening on Wednesday especially after a recent trip to the supermarket and discovering no eggs.

"There's nothing there so that's a big question mark whether we can get all the supplies in time for us to get everything prepared on Wednesday morning.

"I can not be certain about that but I have to place an order, just hopefully supply will turn up."

Down south in Invercargill, The Batch co-owner Kate French was completely redoing her rosters.

"We will be trading reduced hours so 7am-1pm. Our level 3 trade, we will trade with coffee and baked goods only so that's quite a reduction in our offering and it's a matter of juggling around the staff to give the staff a fair load of hours."

Customers would have to wait a bit longer for the full menu to resume.

"The reduced offering we did last time with the baked goods and a couple of cabinet options worked last time for what our customers wanted. But we'll just have to adapt as we go.

"We're trying to sell food in a text format through our app as opposed to a visual point-of-sale and that's where we found those baked goods worked really well last time as opposed to an amazing dish that they can't see and only has a text description."

French was happy to take a more cautious approach to level changes.

"There's a whole risk involved for us as well under level 2. We've got people coming in our doors so you know the risk of us getting a case on site and getting shut down for a prolonged period of time is quite significant for us.

"So yes there's no cases here. But I do think that Delta changes things a little bit and definitely supportive of a bit more of a cautious approach within reason."

The shift to level 3 would not make any difference to Manapouri Church Bar and Eatery owner Gyrth Sturley.

"To open during level 3 in a very small community like Manapouri is not economically viable because by the time you're running all your fryers and associated equipment to have maybe the occasional person drop in for a takeaway, just doesn't spell economic sense."

Sturley wanted to see level 2 by the end of the week if the South Island did not have any community cases.

"If we've got no cases in the South Island, there should be absolutely no reason why they couldn't in those three days make up their minds and say 'yes, we can go to level 2 in the South Island'. Which would not only help small businesses, it would help the whole South Island and the whole country because we could actually get work going again."

While level 3 would boost some dwindling bank balances, other businesses like Sturley's were still hunkering down.