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Michael Friend is the inaugural inductee in Hospitality NZ Hall of Fame

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The success of The Trusts and its people has been recognised again. An award for outstanding service has been received by Michael Friend who is the first person admitted to the new Hospitality New Zealand Hall of Fame in recognition of his four decades of service to the industry.

As General Manager, Hospitality for The Trusts, Michael is steering our extensive hospitality operations to ever-better standards of excellence.

Just as there has been a major change in the way we go about retailing liquor in West Auckland, Michael is leading a similar makeover on the hospitality side. As a result you can look forward to quite a lot of change and innovation over the next few years.

Michael’s guidance of our hospitality operations in West Auckland is based on 43 years of experience. It’s a story that started as a pioneer in the hospitality training environment and then the introduction of affordable family restaurants.

Just as Michael was a pioneer as the first hotel management trainee with New Zealand Breweries (now Lion Breweries) so a central part of his story is about setting new standards of training and service for those who came afterwards.

Michael served for a decade on the Hospitality Standards Institute, a stand-alone industry training organisation and was its chairman for six years. This was the decade when the organisation revolutionised the New Zealand industry. It swept away hospitality concepts that were “so last century” and replaced them with world class standards in food, beverage, accommodation, service and entertainment.

“I emphasise that I didn’t do this on my own,” Michael says, acknowledging that it was a joint effort by many change agents who arose in New Zealand at that time, who together took the opportunity to propel hospitality into the 21st century.

The Chief Executive of Hospitality NZ, Bruce Robertson, said he served on the Standards Institute at the same time as a Michael, and describes him as “a gentleman and a true professional”.

“Michael has always looked beyond his day job to imagine and work for a better industry in New Zealand. He has made a very large contribution over four decades,”

“Michael has always been very supportive of the industry in the many different roles in which he has served,” Mr Robertson said.

Michael’s career started in 1972 when he joined New Zealand (now Lion) Breweries as their first hotel management trainee. It was the beginning of a 28 year career with Lion in which he took on many roles in the core business and also as a board member of the Lion Foundation charitable organisation.

His first trail-blazer role was in helping to build the Cobb and Co chain that introduced New Zealanders to affordable casual family restaurant dining. Michael opened just the third Cobb and Co and by the time he moved on had helped develop a chain with 28 restaurants.

In 1981 Lion sent him to Australia to establish Cobb and Co there, too, as a joint venture with Castlemaine Perkins.

Two years later he came back across “The Ditch” as area manager for Lion’s hotels in the southern half of New Zealand. This led to his appointment first as general manager for the nationwide Hancock chain of 40 hotels and later as general manager of Lion’s 150 leased hotels.

The Lion hotel business came to a shuddering stop with the 1989 Sale of Liquor Act. Faced with a new and unattractive business environment, Lion now wanted out of the hotel and retail liquor businesses and Michael went from nurturing hotels to helping sell them off.

Michael then helped Lion seize market share in Victoria, for its Australian brands acquired from the defunct Bond Brewing. Ironically this entailed buying hotels in Bendigo, Melbourne, Geelong and Ballarat for use as “dispensing machines” for Castlemaine XXXX, Tooheys, South Australian Breweries and Swan products.

He returned to his roots, after a fashion, when he came back to a three-year stint as CEO of the once massively popular Loaded Hog and One Red Dog brew-pubs. Two decades after Cobb and Co, the Loaded Hog and One Red Dog took the affordable casual dining concept to a new level of sophistication.

Today, Michael is building something new yet again, as he helps The Trusts to transform the dining and drinking experience that The Trusts offers in West Auckland.

The social landscape “out west” is very different today from even a few years ago. Westies have moved with the times. Tastes, needs and wants are different and there is no “one size that fits all” in the very diverse market that is west Auckland.