Outlook bright at Eastbourne’s Cobar

5:00 AM Wednesday March 29, 2017 True Commercial

Cobar Restaurant can serve 100 people inside, with the balcony allowing an additional 60. Photo / Supplied

Cobar Restaurant, one of the few fine dining style restaurants still operating in suburban Wellington, is for sale as a business within leased premises.

The restaurant, in the affluent seaside suburb of Eastbourne, sits diagonally opposite the wharf where the Wellington/Days Bay commuter and tourist ferry docks.

Cobar is named after an Australian-built ferry, which made the Wellington-to-Eastbourne run from early last century through until 1948.

Under various owners, Cobar Restaurant has operated on the Marine Parade site for some 24 years — the last nine under high-end chef/maitre d’ partnership of Ryan and Hannah Tattersall.

Ryan has twice been an ambassador chef under the Beef and Lamb Hallmark of Excellence Award programme.

The establishment is licensed to serve up to 100 guests inside, with outdoor balcony seating for an additional 60 patrons. This allows the location to be used as a function venue for weddings and larger corporate or social events.

Now keen to purse their entrepreneurial hospitality careers in the UK, the Tattersalls have Cobar on the market — for sale by negotiation — through Bayleys Wellington.

Business sales broker Mike Lovell says the waterfront hospitality business employs eight full time staff; four are in the kitchen and four servicing the front of house, with an additional roster of 11 part-time personnel.

Lovell claims Cobar “owns” the fine dining market along Wellington harbour’s eastern seaboard and back into the Hutt Valley. “However, there is a huge potential for the business to substantially expand revenues by diversifying its product offering and increasing marketing.

“From a ‘low hanging fruit’ perspective, the easiest opportunity is the mid-morning cafe trade. Cobar is one of the first food and beverage outlets that visitors to Days Bay and Eastbourne come across when they get off the ferry.

“With minimal reconfiguration of the front-of-house fittings, a mid-market ‘coffee and baked goods’ type option could be relatively simple to initiate. This could run from 10am through to noon, an adjunct to the lunch service, which rolls in during the noon to early afternoon period,” says Lovell.

The restaurant opens seven-days-a-week for lunch and dinner during the busy summer season (between December and March). It serves lunches from noon to 3pm Wednesday to Sunday, and dinners from 6pm-9pm Tuesday to Sundays during the rest of the year.

Lovell sees potential to ‘casualise’ the venue’s bar offering to pick up the late afternoon visitor trade waiting for return sailings to the city, and to capture Days Bay and Eastbourne commuters “popping in for a quick one” en-route home.

The early evening drinks target market could run completely independently of the more structured evening dining sector and deliver an additional revenue stream. While Cobar was one of the early initiators in the Eastbourne/Days Bay hospitality scene, taking the high-end of the foodservice market, more recent arrivals have captured the middle-dollar-ground, he says.

“By anchoring on Cobar’s enviable reputation among the Days Bay/Eastbourne local residents, that middle dollar-range market would be fairly easy to attract on a more regular basis.”

Lovell also sees great potential to increase increase weddings and functions at Cobar.

“Over recent years, the business catered for an average of nine weddings annually, with a base rate for these types of functions during peak season of around $9000-per-sitting. With a more dedicated approach to marketing Cobar as a premium licensed function venue, this figure could be grown to 14 occasions in the current financial year, and 19 nuptial gatherings in the 2018/19 financial year.

“Using Wellington Harbour’s regular ferry service as a mode of guest transport would enable function guests to be accommodated in the heart of the city yet enjoy a seaside location with spectacular views of the city skyline for their event or celebration.

“This shared transport/destination location business model operates successfully in Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour, the Bay of Islands, and around the fringes of Rotorua.

The Tattersalls acknowledge that their focus at Cobar over the years has been very internally oriented towards quality control – consistently sustaining the high levels of customer experience expected of a fine dining establishment. There is room in the business for increasing the marketing avenues, they say.

The restaurant’s catchment area stretches from Hutt Valley and along the harbour coastline, which contains some 2000 homes.

The ground floor level of the building housing Cobar is on a lease running through to 2026 — ensuring certainty of operation for at least the next nine years.

Assets being sold with the business include all front of house furnishings and bar fittings, a full inventory of crockery and cutlery, the complete commercial-grade kitchen with gas hobs, ovens, fryers, and walk-in refrigerator and freezer units, and all cooking utensils.