Business Central December 2021

102 | HOSPITALITY Wellington Functions Cannot keep a good operation down T Karen PHelps Directors Paul and Keri Retimanu say that the pandemic has not only helped them to review their business but it has also resulted in growth of their pre-existing businesses. “It’s about our core values of manaaki tanga, which means ‘taking care of’ or ‘hospitality’, kotahi tanga (one team) and wairua tanga (sustainability).” C ovid-19 has not slowed down the growth of Wellington hospitality and function company Manaaki Manage- ment Limited. It has recently added a couple of new busi- nesses to its model: a professional conference organisers business and, earlier in the year, Kawakawa Eatery in Berhampore. Directors Paul and Keri Retimanu say that the pandemic has not only helped them to review their business but it has also resulted in growth of their pre-existing businesses proving that Covid-19 cannot keep a good hospitality operation down. “It’s been about looking at opportunities and keeping our people employed and ensur- ing we were around for the long term. It was about looking at our skillset and how we could best utilise it,” says Paul. Both Keri and Paul come from a background working in the hotel industry and started their first catering business in the late 90s. They then moved into venue hire and func- tions in 2009 when they became the caterers and function centre organisers for Pipitea Marae and Function Centre in Thorndon. It’s one of Wellington’s larger venues, with no pillar and with a high roof stud making for a large versatile space, says Paul. It accommodates up to 450 people seated and 700 theatre style. It holds exhibitions and services the corporate function market. In 2009 the Retimanus success in operating the centre led to them being invited to take on the Wharewaka Function Centre on Welling- ton’s waterfront including Karaka Café. The purpose-built facility offers four spaces and caters to events from 20 to 230 seated and up to 500 standing. In 2017 the Wellington Rowing Club at Frank Kitts Lagoon was added to the mix. The historic building offers panoramic harbour views and a truly unique atmosphere making it an excellent venue which provides individuals and companies with a space for all types of gatherings from private to corporate events, says Paul. Kawakawa Eatery opened in March this year at 469 Adelaide Road, Berhampore. The smaller intimate venue offers 50 seats inside and 20 outside. The menu offers kai from the Retimanus pa- cific and Māori cultures, with a delicious twist of roasted, rested and ready meat infused with traditional Māori herbs and salad options and an a la carte menu with a pacific twist. KiaOraKAI Catering was dreamt up in lockdown last year as the Retimanus sought to pivot their business. People can order online for their functions and events – both corporate and private. Paul says it is food that appeals to the eye as much as the palette. “It’s super fresh food with lots of colour and variety. It’s gaining traction as more people find out about it,” he says. The food served at Wharewaka Function Centre and Karaka Café is also influenced by their cultural heritages. The bilingual menu is heavily māori inspired as is the ambience, which includes māori music and staff greeting guests in te reo. Signature dishes are created with the smoky flavours of a traditional ground hāngi or umu. People can expect to find items like hangi pizza and smoked hāngi hash on the menu. The Retimanus are now also offering pro- fessional conferencing services at venues out- side of Wellington, which is proving popular. At present they are organising a conference for 200 people in Taupo. Paul says the pandemic has taught them to go back to their roots and initial reason for setting up the business: good food and good service. “It’s about our core values of manaaki tan- ga, which means ‘taking care of’ or ‘hospitality’, kotahi tanga (one team) and wairua tanga (sustainability).” This has involved paying people the living wage as minimum (most team members are paid in excess of this) and offering opportuni- ties to Māori and Pacific Islanders (50% of the team is Māori and 80% Pacific Islanders). There is also a focus on recycling everything possible as well as composting and giving back to the community. Paul chairs the Wellington Pacific Business Network, is deputy chair of the Te Awe Wel- lington Māori Business Network, president of Hospitality New Zealand in Wellington, sits on the national board of Hospitality New Zealand and the Services Workforce Development Council. Their business provides free breakfasts and lunches for Keri’s old primary school, Pomare School, among other community initiatives. Paul says that focusing on the team, prod- uct and delivery has really paid dividends. The business is busier than ever in terms of conferencing and May was its biggest month ever. Turnover at Karaka café is 20% up on 2019. Audio Visual Specialists for Premium Venues Wellington, Auckland & Queenstown 04 479 2303