SPQR for sale after epic quarter century

3:10 PM Friday October 27, 2017 Paul Charman

SPQR restaurant at 150 Ponsonby Rd, is for sale after a 25-year run. Photo / Supplied

Ponsonby’s SPQR restaurant at 150 Ponsonby Rd is for sale following a 25-year-status as one of Auckland City’s “in” places to dine.

The eatery’s name recalls a classic Latin phrase, “The Senate and People of Rome” and comparing current clientele to ancient Rome’s senate is not exactly a stretch.

Business broker Lindsey Holcombe, of Clyth MacLeod Business Sales, says the restaurant remains a place to be seen, having long been the haunt of well-to-do, up-and-coming and successful Aucklanders.

“SPQR has attracted leaders from the worlds of business, sport, media, politics, law and the arts . . .

“It’s been a veritable institution for both the people of Auckland and many of those who visit our fabulous city,” says Holcombe.

“But now, as they are due to celebrate a Silver Anniversary and 25 years of SPQR on November 22, the owners have decided it’s time for change.

“So the next journey can begin for a new owner, a person or people with a love of food, wine and service, who are ready to make this their own empire.”

SPQR has built up an influential following over many years, Holcombe says.

“It’s on arguably Auckland’s hippest strip for restaurants, cafes, nightlife, and boutiques.

“SPQR has become a favourite meeting place for anyone, of any age, being popular for 21st and Christmas parties and New Year celebrations.

“There’s always a buzz here — with neighbours in this part of town including Ponsonby Central, Blue Breeze Inn, Mexico, Ponsonby Social Club and Karen Walker.”

She describes a street-front presence, with pristine, white table-cloth dining “that everyone wants to be seated at — an excellent vantage point from which to watch the world go by.

“Expect no seasonality spikes, but a steady flow of loyal customers day-and-night. SPQR is stylishly elegant, with waitering staff providing exceptional service, attention to detail and a wonderful dining experience.” Holcombe describes the food as having an Italian influence, as the owner has a love of Italy.

“Food is simple, fresh and sourced locally with a menu that uses prime New Zealand fare and includes fresh fish, buffalo mozzarella, prosciutto, seafood and oysters. There’s an extensive wine list with a majority of the list available by the glass, and a choice of New Zealand and European wines.”

Holcombe says that the lease has been renewed and currently will run until July 31, 2019.

There is one further right of renewal (for five years to 2024), and then three-by-three annual rights of renewal, with a final expiry of 2033.

“Presently there is a total of 27 staff covering kitchen, bar and floor service.

“The longest-serving staff member has been there 17 years.

“Wage costs are about 38 per cent of the $4m annual sales; food and beverages costs come to 37 per cent of annual sales.”

SPQR was converted from a former motorcycle workshop, retaining the rustic concrete floor and walls reminiscent of Rome. The building is about 300sq m, including restaurant, bar, kitchen, office, storeroom and prep areas.

Holcombe says the interior has its own ambience with a dimly lit interior and plenty of candles reflecting on the ceiling. “It is ultra-cool and spacious with long tables and a few hidden corners to sit quietly with a glass of wine and people-watch, or meet friends for a bottle of champagne.”

New residential parking zoning recently came into force in Ponsonby, allowing free parking for two hours on weekdays from 8am to 6pm.

“The restaurant has a fully equipped kitchen and there is a separate prep area at the back of the kitchen with plenty of storage.”

Holcombe says SPQR has been certified with an “Eatsafe” grade of A — meaning Excellent.

“This score — between 91 and 100 per cent recognises businesses with an effective food control plan, consistent produce and safe and suitable food.”

She says Auckland Council rolled out Eatsafe in response to Food Act 2014 standards that came into effect in March last year. The grading system assesses each business based on food safety, looking at cleaning, cooking, chilling of food and operator conduct, as well as food suitability issues such as food composition and labelling.

“These professional standards underpin an establishment at the pinnacle of Auckland’s dining scene.”