Perched overlooking Onetangi Road, The Heke is an embodiment of the Waiheke community: connected, laid back and welcoming. Home to Waiheke Craft Beer and the award-winning Waiheke Whisky, The Heke opened its kitchen doors in the first phase of the project, and already has locals flocking for superb casual fare and post-beach tipples.
We got in touch with The Heke Director, Roanne Parker, to explore the ins and outs of why their local spot is worth a visit this summer.
How did your story begin and where are you now?
“The Heke (short for “Waiheke”) was developed by two local families; one had a brewery and the other a distillery. As a coincidence, both Waiheke Brewing Co and Waiheke Whisky were born several years ago in the same old shed on the island. The whisky moved out to a new home and the beer moved in, so we like to think that the writing was on the wall for a collaboration long before we even met.
The Heke is a labour of love for its owners, and happily strays from the classic Waiheke wine for which the Island is already renowned. The Izzards brought their passion for whisky to the table while the Hindmarshes chased it with a beer, and together they’ve created a haven for locals that is rooted in whānau.
Now, The Heke Kitchen is a relaxed restaurant and bar experience, in a family friendly environment. The sprawling lawn, complete with jumping pillow and toys just waiting to be clambered on by little ones, provides the perfect picnic spot for friends to catch up over a drink and delicious food, many dishes are cooked over fire coals.
The Mashery is a large modern architecturally designed building with the brewery and distillery at one end. In the middle section is an airy event centre with its own kitchen, surrounded by towering barrel racks claimed, ‘The Barrel Room’. At the eastern end of the building is a luxe tasting room, with our cellar door shop selling our beer, spirits, whisky and merchandise.”
What is your company mission?
““E hara taku toa i te toa takitahi, he toa takitini - My strength is not as an individual, but as a collective.”
The ‘HEKE' is home to our family-owned businesses. We share a common goal of delivering exceptional products and services, ethically and sustainably, so our collective values are Quality, Hospitality, Sustainability, Community and Fun!
Quality: Quality in everything we do, everything we make, every interaction with every customer, every team member and every day. We deliver quality and quality represents value.
Hospitality & ‘Manaakitanga’: We exist to help our guests have a great time and a memorable experience. We deliver this with a can-do attitude, with kind and attentive service to all guests and to each other. We show Manaaki (respect) to each other and our clients. We encourage and support each other to achieve our best at all times in a safe, fun and relaxed environment. We always aim to exceed expectations.
Sustainability: We are the Kaitiaki (guardians) of The Heke. We look after our land, our water, our people and our business. We help our team grow and learn. We minimise our impact on the environment, and hope to lead by example for generations to come.
Community: We are proud to be part of our special Island. Waiheke is our whanau. We strive to support and contribute positively to our community.
Fun: Nau mai, haere mai! Everyone is welcome at The Heke. Come as you are, to feel, to learn, to drink, to eat, to relax and most importantly, to have fun!”
How do you keep your staff engaged?
“We have whānau at the heart of our business and it’s important to us that our team have a sense of belonging and involvement. When people feel connected, important, and know the role they play in that sense of welcome / manaakitanga - then our visitors will feel connected too. Our reviews often mention the happy smiles and warmth here, which is the best motivation.”
What positive changes would you like to see in the tourism industry within the next decade?
“We’re relatively new to the industry, so spending time on our application and assessment with Qualmark was a huge undertaking for us. It was perfectly timed, as we were only 18 months in when we started the process, which really enabled us to sit down and go through the entire business with a lens of achieving excellence across the board. As a new business it is easy to get the preparation done and then run like crazy, without taking the time to adjust the operations procedures and documentation. I think that it is important for the whole industry to deliver to a very high standard.”
What would you describe as your ingredient for success?
“We offer delicious food and a wide range of our own drinks in a beautiful setting, located on all main transport routes. We have a spectacular on-site distillery and brewery, co-located businesses of this calibre is a unique offering in New Zealand, and in particular on Waiheke Island close to New Zealand’s biggest market of Auckland.
We continually strive to be different from other businesses available to our customers. We are family and group friendly, which allows us to deliver high quality offerings at good value - customers appreciate the offering that we have, and our business is growing YOY.
Sustainability is also fundamental to our operations as we strive to be leaders in this area. This is in line with our values, and we believe it is the only choice; to take responsibility for the impact we make for current and future New Zealanders.”
And lastly, what do customers have to look forward to over the summer months?
“Our summer gardens are manicured and beautiful, offering shady spots to enjoy and relax. Our new summer menu has just launched and each season our food gets even better.
Our new Tasting Rooms and event spaces offer a luxe and educational way to learn about our products, our story and our island. They are open seven days over high summer and key weekend days year-round, and by appointment. We are offering in-depth tours with the Founders by appointment too which are getting rave reviews!”