Covid, costs lead to Potpourri sale

"It's so disheartening."

Hilary and Craig Procter were describing the impact Covid-19 had on their popular Dunedin eatery, Potpourri Vegetarian Cafe, which led to the sale of the business last week.

While it was a tough decision, it had become too untenable to operate in the pandemic environment, Mr Procter said.

The past two years were "incredibly difficult" without cruise ships and tourists in the city as well as an increase in people working from home.

Previously, it was a "thriving little business" selling out of food every day, Mrs Procter said.

"People would be queued out the door with five staff on ... not any more," she said.

It was a lot harder to operate now compared with when Covid-19 first arrived.

"Back then, we just shut down," Mr Procter said.

With Covid-19 in the community, the cafe had to shut recently for several days while staff isolated and had reduced operating hours to match demand.

Potpourri Vegetarian Cafe’s former owners, Hilary and Craig Procter, hold its welcome sign. PHOTO...
Potpourri Vegetarian Cafe’s former owners, Hilary and Craig Procter, hold its welcome sign. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH

Government restrictions on hospitality businesses, such as vaccine passes, scanning in and gathering limits, took their toll too.

"People just didn’t want to scan in so they didn’t bother buying coffee," Mr Procter said.

On top of that, the cost of ingredients had also "skyrocketed" recently.

A bag of grated cheese had gone up by 20%, or $12.50 — "we use four to five bags a week" — and milk had increased 50c a litre. Coffee was also set to increase soon, Mrs Procter said.

"It all adds up and it really hurts when you are trying to do business," she said.

Potpourri opened in lower Stuart St in the 1970s to provide a vegetarian option in the city and Mr and Mrs Procter were its 14th owner.

After more than 20 years as an auto-electrician, Mr Procter wanted a career change — "I wondered what I would do and I thought, well, I like eating".

He trained as a chef at Otago Polytechnic about the same time the couple spotted the cafe for sale.

They had always wanted to own a business and, in a "moment of madness", bought it in 2010, Mr Procter said.

Despite the recent difficulties, the couple had enjoyed their tenure.

"We’ve had so much fun," Mrs Procter said.

The highlight was the regular customers who continued to support to them.

The most popular item on the menu had been the baked potato and the Tuesday bran muffins.

The couple were pleased to see the cafe sold to Dunedin chef Iwan Rijwan rather than it being closed.

"That would have been devastating. We did not want to see it get to that," Mrs Procter said.


All the best both…its been a long hard slog for you both in difficult times..three years was long enough for us👍