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Meet Brona Parsons from Wanaka's Federal, Fedeli and FuDog

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8 June 2020

Putting not just one but three hospitality businesses into lockdown was understandably stressful, but Wanaka’s Brona Parsons has bounced back with all three of her Wanaka ventures now back trading.

Brona has been involved with Wanaka institution the Federal Diner since it opened nine years ago. She and her business partners now also own Fedeli and Fudog, and Emporio supplies the coffee for all. Brona tells us more about her life in the trade ...

It’s a big leap from one café to three …

When we opened Fedeli four years ago, Wanaka lacked a healthy take-away food joint. The Federal was getting so busy, we needed separate space for take-away coffee and food on the go.

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Fedeli focuses on vegetarian and vegan salads and sandwiches, with a few meat options too.

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We opened FuDog, a night time modern Asian restaurant, last May so it’s the baby of the family.  Again, we felt there was a gap in the market, this time for good quality Asian food. It’s our biggest venture yet and we’re very happy with how it’s been received, we have amazing support from the locals. Federal still remains the backbone and the work horse of our businesses.

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Have you always worked in hospitality? 

Hospitality is definitely in my blood, it's the only industry I've worked in. My grandfather, uncle and sister were all chefs and I grew up on the West Coast of Ireland working holiday jobs in my sister’s restaurant.  On arrival in New Zealand 22 years ago, I first worked as a chef and then had my own catering company.  

How did you cope with lockdown?

It was the uncertainty that was the most concerning for me during lockdown, especially knowing overseas visitors will not be around for a while yet. Now that the businesses are back to normal (the new normal), I am feeling more confident. I did love the break that lockdown provided saying it was great to stop for a bit and hang with her family.

What do you enjoy about Emporio Coffee?

We’ve used Emporio since the beginning, the coffee has a great flavour. Emporio always delivers amazing service and whatever the question, the answer is YES.

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We like to develop long-term, relationships with our suppliers and appreciate the mutual support we enjoy with Emporio.  

You have been leading a campaign to get Wanaka single-use-cup free by 2022 …

We launched the Single Use Free Wanaka campaign in October last year (Emporio lent us a coffee machine) and now have fourteen cafés in Wanaka using the cup lending scheme Again Again. There are four completely single-use-cup free so far, including The Federal and Fedeli.

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I feel lucky to be able to live in Wanaka as it’s not an easy place to make a living in hospitality.  Like most people here, I love breathing in the mountain air and getting out biking and skiing. I also love reading, although it is hard to find time for that these days with three kids and three businesses!

Any advice for someone wanting to start a café? 

A lot has changed since you first asked me that question! But generally, don't be afraid of hard work. Embrace your regulars/locals, they are an integral part of your business.

I feel that the success of our businesses is partly because we are owner-operator and we focus on our local trade, which has a trickle-down effect with domestic and overseas tourists. I cannot stress enough how important the  local support is for our business. 

You also need to treat your staff like family. Encourage them to grow within the business, and give them a sense of ownership.

Get good baristas, use Emporio Coffee and have fun!

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