One of New Zealand’s most successful restaurant operators has joined the growing number of hospitality groups driving the sector’s post-COVID-19 recovery after unveiling plans to open three new flagship restaurants in the Sydney and Melbourne CBDs before the end of the year.
Good Group, which operates high-end steakhouses, Asian fusion restaurants and bars in Queenstown and Auckland, will open two new multi-level restaurants – a Botswana Butchery and a White & Wong’s Asian eatery – at the new dining precinct being developed by Dexus at 25 Martin Place and a second Botswana Butchery on Melbourne’s Flinders Lane, within AMP Capital’s landmark Collins Place.
Fit-outs are currently underway across the multi-level venues after Good Group committed to long-term leases across almost 3000 square metres of prime retail space.
The Sydney restaurants are due to open in October and the Melbourne restaurant, a month later.
They follow major expansion drives by Justin Hemmes’ Merivale Group (including its first venue in Melbourne) as well as new steakhouses and burger joints being opened by Bradley Michael’s Seagrass Hospitality.
Good Group director and CEO Russell Gray, who moved to Melbourne three years ago to lead the group’s Australian expansion, said he was “extremely optimistic” about the outlook for the Victorian capital, despite the challenges posed by multiple lockdowns.
“The pandemic through in a major curve ball [to our expansion plans] but the good news is that both New Zealand and Australia have navigated COVID pretty well,” Mr Gray told The Australian Financial Review.
“Yes we have had multiple issues in Melbourne, but compared to the rest of the world, we are doing well.”
Looking past the pandemic, Mr Gray said he saw a “real bounce back happening in both economies across both hospitality and tourism, though the latter’s recovery may take a bit longer.
Having adopted a “careful and measured” approach to launching in Australia, Mr Gray said the pandemic had bought the group extra time to negotiate more favourable leasing deals.
“Landlords are approaching new tenants through a very different lens than prior to pandemic. They are discussing upfront issues like lockdowns and closures.”
“We’ve been able to negotiate good terms with landlords as a consequence of COVID. We feel very comfortable where we have landed in terms of the leases we entered into and the sites we have managed to get.”
Good Group will be the anchor tenant at 25 Martin Place’s (the former MLC Centre) new dining precinct, occupying three floors on one side of the precinct including a rooftop for its Botswana Butchery and two floors on the other side for White & Wong’s.
In Melbourne, Good Group is will occupy three levels and over 900sq m at 66 Flinders Lane in a deal negotiated by Zelman Ainsworth, formerly with CBRE.
Joe Sullivan, AMP Capital general manager of Collins Place, said the opening of Botswana Butchery in late 2021 was an” exciting step in the renewal of Collins Place and a major vote of confidence in the Melbourne CBD food scene”.
Mr Gray said Good Group planned to expand its rollout to multiple restaurants in Sydney and Melbourne, whilst also looking for opportunities in Brisbane and the Gold Coast.
“What has given us confidence are our Aussie fans.
“Given the nature of our locations, hundreds of thousands of Australians – tourists and corporates have come to our venues over the years.
“They have consistently said: ‘when will [you] bring your brands to Australia?’ We have answered the call.”