Although COVID travel restrictions mean that Italy is currently off the holiday destination list
for most, not to worry. You can still enjoy your favourite vino while tucking into a traditional
Italian pizza right in the heart of Taupō.
Taupō local Sandy Hallett and the team at the newly opened Sorrento offer a traditional
Italian dining experience in Tuwharetoa St. Previously known as Osteria, the restaurant
menu includes a range of pizza, pasta, and main dishes with an focus on quality service.
Like many local hospitality businesses, Sorrento has been significantly impacted by the
lower visitor numbers to the Taupō region. “I took over the business just a few months
before COVID hit. Since then business has dropped, and we have to work harder on
marketing to get people through the door” says Sandy.
Due to delays caused by the pandemic, international deliveries of Italian wine have become
problematic. “As a result, we’ve expanded our local specialty wine list. It’s been a great
opportunity to support New Zealand suppliers, including some tasty drops from the Hawkes
Bay area” says Sandy.
Working with her team has helped Sandy find answers to business challenges, including
changing staff rosters, opening for lunch and adapting menus. “Our staff are the best part of
our business. Our head chef Matt is has been in the business for over 20 years, and our front
of house manager Geoffroy is Michelin star trained. We’re like a family and we’re all really
close. I’m quite open about our situation and make sure the team know what’s going on.
We sit down together to come up with solutions that will work for everyone” says Sandy.
Sandy has also had support from the team at Amplify, who helped source funding from the
Regional Business Partner Network for marketing costs. “We’re delighted to have launched
a new website, and we engage much more with our customers on social media. It’s a big
part of the restaurant scene now” she says.
Taupō’s business community has also been an important source of knowledge and referrals.
“We’re all in this together and are facing similar challenges, so it’s good to get together and
share ideas. We really appreciate it when businesses refer people to us, and we do the same
for them” says Sandy.
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