The Wharf Café and Bar - an institution at Eastland Port, trail-blazing the way for dining and entertainment around Gisborne’s inner harbour – is for sale as a going-concern.
Marketed by Bayleys Gisborne, offers are sought for the business with a deadline of 27 August, 2010. A new owner would be well-poised to benefit from the upcoming busy tourist season which includes the annual Gisborne Wine and Food Festival at Labour Weekend, Rhythm and Vines in January, and the Te Matatini National Kapa Haka Festival in February.
Karen Raureti of Bayleys Gisborne describes the business as “a real Gisborne gem”. Based in the historic Number 1 shed, The Wharf is highly visible from the busy State Highway which runs past it, and being water-side, diners feel part of the action of a working port.
“When you talk about location being paramount, The Wharf wins hands down,” says Ms Raureti.
“There is currently a lease in place with Eastland Port who have been supportive landlords and encouraging of new initiatives.
“With Gisborne being a coastal city, it is great to have the port as a focal point for entertainment and dining. As both indoor and outdoor tables are available at The Wharf, patrons are able to sit water-side regardless of the weather or the season. Plus, the café has access to some of the best and freshest local produce with fish landed at the wharf that morning on the plates at dinner time.”
Llewellyn Williams and business partner Ian Smail have owned and operated the Wharf Café and Bar for 12 years and say the word ‘millennium’ brings standout memories for the thriving establishment that has become a favourite for locals and visitors to Gisborne.
“We had not long owned The Wharf Café when the new millennium dawned and the world’s eyes were on Gisborne as the place to be to witness the first sunrise of the century,” says Ms Williams.
“I had 63 staff on deck that season, was interviewed by international journalists on January 1 with the story going all over the world – and finally got to bed at 3am only to be up and on deck at 7am for the breakfast shift. It was crazy, mad – but I’ll always remember it.”
“And then two years later, the Jody F Millennium was stranded for 18 days off Waikanae Beach and The Wharf Café effectively became an office for the salvage crew who worked around the clock to try and fix the problem. It was full-on and it was times like those that you really appreciated the value of true team work.”
With the port a hive of activity year-round, even the wildlife favour it as a destination with Homer the sea elephant and Moko the dolphin both making the port their home over the years.
After 30 years in the hospitality industry, Ms Williams says she’s seen it all and despite the economic dips and dives, it’s still a great ‘game’ to be in.
“It’s all about tapping into your market, giving people what they want and exceeding their expectations. People socialise differently today even compared to five years ago. Today, you have to really give people a reason to go out and a reason to spend, as they are so much more aware of food trends and they are often cautious with their discretionary dollars.
“With the rise in popularity of food magazines and the fascination with celebrity chefs and food programmes on television, people know a lot more about what they are eating and feel more confident about tackling ambitious home menus. When they go out, they want to have an experience that transcends what they could have at their own place.”
The Wharf Café and Bar has firmly established itself on the Gisborne dining and entertainment scene and has also received accolades nationally. Ms Williams has forged some enduring relationships within the local and national wine industry and is highly thought of in this field.
Excellent chefs have been attracted to the business over the years and the current head chef, Gisborne local Kevin Murphy, has been with The Wharf for four years. Awards for Best Café and Business of the Year adorn the walls, but Ms Williams says it is the loyalty and support of the Gisborne locals that have made The Wharf what it is today.
“Whether they visit once a year, once a week or even once a day, our regular local customers really make this business worthwhile. The Wharf has become an integral part of many family milestones with 21sts, engagements, anniversary celebrations and weddings all celebrated here over the years.”
The infrastructure is all in place at The Wharf for a new owner to take the business to a new level. Ms Williams says the hospitality industry in general is best suited to those with abundant energy, lots of creativity, an ability to manage staff well and a genuine interest in people.
“I can see the opportunity for a new owner to build on the momentum we have established and to look at some additional creative uses for the venue such as tapping into the wave of celebrity chef popularity, the corporate presentation market and cuisine theme evenings.”