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A recipe for success

With a decade's experience working in hospitality, Crombie Lockwood Whanganui Commercial Broker, Teresa Falk is well placed to help local cafe and restaurant owners as they navigate changing times.

Crombie Lockwood Commercial Broker Teresa Falk, has been helping her hospitality clients in any way she can, to get through the impact of Covid-19 and New Zealand’s lockdowns. Many have had to pivot and adapt to the times.

“A lot of clients in the hospitality sector have changed how they operate. Some of them have moved online, and some of them are delivering their food,” says the Whanganui insurance broker.

Changes in the way a company operates can sometimes trigger insurance adjustments, whether it be on a vehicle now being used commercially, needing to move locations, or expanding an operation in a new direction.

“It doesn’t take very much in the hospitality industry to make things difficult. There are small profit margins and high labour costs. So, if you can't trade, it's pretty scary.”

Whanganui split block image CL Teresa Falk

Teresa Falk, Commercial Broker

First hand industry knowledge

Teresa  knows from experience that hospitality can be a high-pressure, physically demanding industry that requires an immense level of resilience.

 “You have to work hard and fast, be confident in your decisions, and have good time management. I think it's one of those jobs that if you can do it, you could be doing anything because it gives you some really good business practices,” she says.

Teresa worked her way up through departments at an insurance firm, including sales, claims and accounts, before becoming a district manager.

After a restructure in 2001, Teresa took redundancy and started anew at 31. “I decided at that point I wanted to retrain as a chef,” she says. “After 12 months, I ended up buying my own cafe.”

Under Teresa’s guidance, Cracked Pepper was a cafe by day, and a fine dining restaurant by night, with the help of her head chef brother, Derek Allomes, in the kitchen. 

In 2012, well-regarded travel guide, Lonely Planet, even name-checked Cracked Pepper for "serving (arguably) the best eggs benedict in New Zealand”.

Insurance broking with hospitality clients 

After 10 years of seven-day work weeks, it came time to move on and dedicate more time to Teresa’s family. She didn’t know what she wanted to do next, but in 2014 Crombie Lockwood's Whanganui branch came knocking.

It’s Teresa’s real-world experience in the hospitality industry that makes her an expert when it comes to helping other small business owners navigate the world of insurance. “I think it’s harder to fully understand the things that concern a business owner until you’ve actually had your own business and know what some of the pressures are,” Teresa says.

Malcolm Whitlock and Roxi Douglas, who own The Citadel Café in Whanganui, say they can rely on Teresa’s trusted recommendations and consistent communication.

“I can ask her dumb questions, and she’s forthcoming with good answers,” Malcolm says. “When we had a small flood in the premises, she was immediately hands-on, referred us quickly, and the insurance was paid out efficiently. To have Teresa guide us through the policy process certainly took the heat off.”

“Having ‘hospitality eyes’ means you can survey a room and see things perhaps others don’t, and Teresa certainly has that talent,” he adds. “It’s nice to have real people that live and work locally endorse your insurance and your policy choices.”

Hospitality experience that's gone full circle 

Today, the former Cracked Pepper Cafe is home to European bistro High-Kut, which opened in July 2020. Owned by Vy Nguyen and Kelvin Huang, the couple share something more than industry experience with Teresa.

“Kelvin worked for me as a part-time chef when he studied at the local Polytechnic,” Teresa says. “They’re quietly making a name for themselves here in Whanganui.”

“Having someone with experience [handling our insurance] gives us peace of mind,” Vy says.

“We know that Teresa owned a hospitality business, so that’s why she was the one for us to go to. She understands what we need for a restaurant business, knows how to make sure we’re covered and whatever happens, we know someone is there to help.”

“I think it’s harder to fully understand the things that concern a business owner until you’ve actually had your own business and know what some of the pressures are.” Teresa Falk. 

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Published April 2021