Expansion on the menu for this Christchurch company

  • Spitroast 3

    On the road with Spitroast.com
  • Spitroast 2

    The Corporate Club hosts a variety of gatherings and events.
  • Spitroast 1

    Succulent meat on the barbecue.

When the February 2011 earthquakes flattened his two cafés in Christchurch’s CBD, Jason Olliver had to rethink his business strategy. Not content to sit still, by December of that same year he had bought Spitroast.com, a business specialising in spit roast and barbecue catering.

Jason and partner Karen Whalley own the Spitroast.com Canterbury and Dunedin franchises as well as being the New Zealand franchisor, with an established franchisee in Auckland. It’s a business model that works well for the pair, who has been involved in the hospitality industry for more than two decades. The couple held senior management roles in the Financial Services and Banking sector while owning restaurants and cafes, something Jason says was always “a juggle”.

“Catering presented a better business model with the potential for greater financial returns. Wage and food costs are known upfront so you know exactly where your margin is coming from. All the food is portioned and there is little or no wastage. Moving into catering was the best business decision we made and it’s a formula that works,” he explains.

The popularity of the spit roast style of catering is propelled by Kiwis’ love of a good roast dinner and is an easy option for feeding a crowd from 30 to 500 people. The company also has menu options that cater to different types of events; black tie dinners and weddings, to casual barbecue dining and parties.

The Christchurch rebuild is also providing Spitroast.com with a lot of business. “With the rebuild, there are a lot of roof shouts and building site gatherings. It’s really busy.”

When Jason bought the business, the kitchen was set up in shipping containers as the function centre it had previously been housed in, was demolished in the earthquake. But the search had always been on for a permanent venue that could also act as a setting for other external catering and functions, completing Jason’s”expansion equation”.

In December 2013, he found a suitable venue, just five minutes from the airport. “‘The Corporate Club’ and ‘Corporate Cuisine’ were our answer to driving business through the cooler winter months when the spit roast bookings are quieter. They also look after a different segment of the market with lunches, corporate business gatherings, after work drinks and celebrations either here at the Club or at a place of work.”

Ask Jason where the name for the venue came from and he laughs. “Moore Stephens Markhams director Graeme Rhodes actually came up with it! It shows the level of commitment and involvement he has in our business!”

In the 10 years prior to owning Spitroast.com, Jason and Karen had bought and sold businesses with Graeme beside them “every step of the way”.

“Years ago we bought a small café in Hanmer Springs and Karen wouldn’t buy it without Graeme’s seal of approval. He has always been involved in our business decisions and will give you his opinion in black and white.”

“There have been examples of where his due diligence has led us to pull out of deals and his opinions are based on rationale, reasoning. We trust his judgment implicitly,” says Jason.
Graeme handles Spitroast.com’s finances across all of the business units. Using the MYOB system, Jason and Karen are able to process some of the financials themselves, before handing over to Graeme and his team. “Graeme is so passionate about his clients doing well,” says Jason. “He has a genuine interest in seeing us succeed. We never feel like just another customer – he is definitely part of our business.”


Published Winter 2014.

Serious about your success?