Restaurant and bar proves hit with locals
Flocks of patrons have been homing in on Hamilton’s newest suburban restaurant and bar, The Wayward Pigeon. The completion of the $1.8 million venue in October means its owner and operator, the Lawrenson Group, now boasts 17 hospitality venues in the city.
These businesses range from award-winning restaurants and after work drinking venues, to Hamilton’s biggest and most popular nightclubs.
chief executive John Lawrenson is delighted with the design, ambience and rapid acceptance of The Wayward Pigeon in Rototuna. “It’s probably the best venue we’ve done. It’s certainly pretty state of the art,” he says.
“It has a warm aspect to it. There are a number of really good outside areas, a separate restaurant and bar area, and a very well-appointed kitchen capable of producing large amounts of quality food quickly.”
The Wayward Pigeon also features a function area, child and family friendly areas, and upstairs balconies overlooking the surrounding area.
John attributes the outstanding result achieved to designers R M Design of Christchurch, who have considerable experience with hospitality venues, while Form Building and Developments, Tauranga, completed the project ahead of schedule and under budget.
“We’ve got a venue that not only looks good, but works really well.” Its rapidly acquired popularity has resulted in up to 400 diners being served on a Saturday night.
Lawrenson Group’s commitment to projects outside the central business district in recent years recognises a trend towards community establishments, particularly as a result of stricter drink-driving laws.
“It definitely creates a locals culture. “People are a lot happier being able to just pop down the road to a local bar rather than worrying about the cost of a taxi into the central city.”
The Wayward Pigeon’s name relates to a “polarising character” who raced pigeons during the 1920s, while the group’s other suburban bar, The Roaming Giant in Claudelands, was named after an elephant that escaped the circus into the neighbouring bush during the 1960s.
John acknowledges that meeting and exceeding the expectations of today’s food and drink savvy customers can be a challenging aspect of the hospitality industry.
“People are better travelled and not only that, we’ve had a lot of different cultures move to our country and they’ve brought their cuisine with them, so people have an expectation of quality and also of variety. “If you fail to offer that, then look out.”
A former lawyer who gained seven years’ experience in hospitality during and after his university studies, John started Lawrenson Group in 2007 with just one restaurant, Furnace , which is still part of the group’s stable.
After it became successfully established, John’s next project, a student nightclub, went equally well, creating the foundation for the company to expand further.
“Within four years we had nine venues and we’ve just slowly grown since then.” The group now employs more than 300 staff and has an $11 million annual wage bill.
It recognises recruiting talented and committed staff is the most crucial factor in the success of the business.
Consequently John is relieved about the November U-turn in the Government’s proposed immigration policy which would have severely restricted the number of quality applicants for positions within the group.