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Eat Drink Play: celebrating all things Wellington

Returning in May after its successful debut last year, the Eat Drink Play festival is designed to showcase the best of Wellington’s hospitality.

Eat Drink Play, a vibrant city-wide celebration of all things Wellington, returns for 2022 following its successful debut last year. 'Free range' is the theme of the festival which runs from May 6 to 29, and up to 200 hospitality businesses are expected to take part. 

Eat Drink Play director, and board member of Hospitality New Zealand Jeremy Smith, says the region-wide festival is designed by the hospitality industry for the hospitality industry.

“It has been well publicised how much doom and gloom there has been in the hospitality sector throughout the pandemic. It’s inescapable,” says Jeremy. So as an industry we asked ourselves how do we collaborate and take responsibility for the future of our businesses? That’s where the idea for Eat Drink Play came from.”

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Wellington on show

Encouraging Wellington’s hospitality businesses to try something different has been a big component of the programme for 2022. “We’ve been encouraging participants to get creative around the ‘play’ aspect. As a result, we have establishments planning some fun, interactive events” Jeremy says.

“For example, through a collaboration with the Dominion Post and city cafes, there will be a daily mid-morning quiz, with cumulative scores tallied up through the entire run of the festival. Beyond the city itself, we have well-known Martinborough wineries involved, giving diners the opportunity to create special menus with guest chefs and holding mystery wine tastings.”

100 venues participated in last year’s Eat Drink Play; Jeremy's goal this year is to have 200 bars, clubs, restaurants, cafes, accommodation providers and entertainers taking part. 

Staying optimistic in the face of adversity

As a sector, the hospitality industry has faced some of the biggest challenges as a result of COVID and the resultant lockdowns and restrictions. 

"A closed restaurant affects more than just the staff who work there,” says Jeremy. “Every dollar lost in hospitality has an effect somewhere else, be it a fresh produce supplier, a winemaker, or a musician who earns money performing in a venue.

“It all has a flow-on effect, which underlines why as an industry, food, beverage, entertainment, and accommodation providers need to collaborate to survive the challenges the current climate has brought with it.”

“It’s crucial to have exciting things to look forward to. We know things will get better and there’s no time like the present to start planning for Wellington’s exciting future.”

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“As an industry we asked ourselves how do we collaborate and take responsibility for the future of our businesses.  
That’s where the idea for the Eat Drink Play festival came from.”

Jeremy Smith - Board member of Hospitality New Zealand 

Celebration through collaboration

Through collaboration between different types of venues, participants are encouraged to create a hero dish for the festival (Eat), match it with a locally produced beverage (Drink) and put on some regular entertainment during the month (Play). There is also a ‘Stay’ aspect to this year’s event, with accommodation providers throughout the region encouraged to come up with compelling festival packages for guests.

Funding is provided by WellingtonNZ, with the festival also attracting a variety of sponsors, including Crombie Lockwood.

We have had a strong commitment to the hospitality sector for a long time,” says Crombie Lockwood Head of Key Partnerships, David Rayner. “The industry continues to traverse an especially challenging environment and our clients are looking for sound advice and as much certainty as possible.

“We’re very proud to support the Eat Drink Play festival – it’s a fantastic initiative with many social and economic benefits for Wellington’s world-famous hospitality industry.”

David Rayner - Head of Key Partnerships, Crombie Lockwood  

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Published April 2022