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Japanese Hospitality, Kiwi Style

A group of hospitality professionals from Japan will touch down in New Zealand in December to master the art of Kiwi-style hospitality.

The ten-strong team are part of iki Espresso, a cutting edge café with a distinctly Kiwi flavour nestled in the heart of East Tokyo. Owned by Queenstown residents Kim and Teru Harase, iki opened its doors two years ago, delivering a slice of New Zealand to Teru’s hometown, and giving the pair an opportunity to celebrate their shared passion for our artisan food, wine and coffee.

A cool espresso cafe in traditional and serene East Tokyo, iki has developed a cult following thanks to its trademark Kiwi fare, Kiwi-style coffee and relaxed yet slick service. The cafe showcases New Zealand products such as wine, beef, salmon and honey, and offers Kiwi picnics for customers to devour in the local park. It even serves dog biscuits from New Zealand for its canine guests.

Now Kim and Teru are bringing their team to Auckland and Queenstown to broaden their horizons and pick up some tips for delivering the very best Kiwi customer service.

“Japanese food and service is outstanding in every way but what makes New Zealand food, coffee and hospitality different is the relaxed atmosphere and range of food available,” says Kim.

“We believe bringing our team here will be an invaluable experience which will help them gain confidence to express their individuality through excellent customer service. It will give them an opportunity to practice English and experience the New Zealand café culture first hand.”

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While in Queenstown, the group will stay at the couple’s new boutique accommodation offering iki Lodge, and they’ll visit their favourite local cafes and wineries, including Akarua Wines & Kitchen by Artisan, Frank’s Eatery, Bespoke Kitchen, the Chop Shop, Jack’s Point Clubhouse, Yonder and the Sherwood.

“We’ll also make a beeline for Wet Jacket – the wine there is excellent and the ambience of the place, coupled with the warmth and cheerfulness of the knowledgeable staff, is something we look forward to sharing with our team.”

Meanwhile in Auckland, Takapuna Beach Café, Café Hanoi, Ugly Bagels, Ostro and Farro Fresh are on the list, all chosen for their settings, food and ambiance.

Coffee will also a top priority. Teru is passionate about his daily fix, in fact he trained as a barista under Simone Forde in Auckland back in the 1990’s and helped launch Allpress Coffee in Tokyo in 2014.

“In Japan, many cafes open at 10am, while in New Zealand we are early risers and crave our daily coffee ritual from 6.30am onwards. Here we might be on our third coffee before 11am, while in Japan takeaway espresso coffee is still unusual.”

That’s something the pair are working hard to change. They currently run a shared coffee roastery with Bonnie Coffee from Melbourne, just around the corner from the iki café. From here, iki’s roasting team crafts the finest blend and single origins for the iki coffee brand, which is both served and sold in the iki Espresso café and enjoyed by a growing number of coffee partners.

After a few days spent soaking up the very best Queenstown and Auckland have to offer, Kim hopes her team will go back to Tokyo better equipped to share New Zealand’s unique flavour with iki’s customers.

“This visit will open their minds to the Kiwi way of delivering outstanding coffee, food and friendly service. As a team, we strive to offer the best café experience in Japan, and this visit will assist us with our goal of continuous improvement in everything we do. The New Zealand experience will expose our team to a variety of café environments and stimulate them to think more creatively about our customers’ needs.”


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