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Meet Tom Howard of ONE

May 25, 2020

Meet Tom Howard of ONE

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We sat down for a quick chat with Tom Howard, owner-operator of Onehunga's newest eatery named exactly that ONE — Onehunga Neighbourhood Eatery. Read on to find out how his 10+ year career in hospitality got started, how he came to share a space with Auckland champions Everybody Eats and what positives have come out of the Covid-19 level 4 lockdown for him. Turns out, thanks to being in lockdown with his brother, Tom spent a fair amount of time dipping his toes in an amateur acting career. So should we expect to see him on-screen past Covid-19? That was a firm 'NO'.

How did you get into the hospitality industry, and where did coffee first come into it?
One of my best friends had spent his weekends of high school working in a cafe in Ellerslie. In my first year of university he got me to fill in on a shift for him. By the end of university I was working there full time and on my third owner. Since then I’ve been running cafés in Auckland & Edinburgh when not dabbling in winemaking. 

Tell us a little about how you came to work with Everybody Eats, where did your relationship start and how did you decide to share a cafe space with them?
The founder of Everybody Eats is the brother of a good friend of mine. I signed up to do the dishes the week after they opened and loved everything about it; the concept, the volunteer experience & the people. I was a regular on the dishes for over a year before they trusted me enough to run the Gemmayze St pop-up for a few months. The idea of the café space came about when I was helping Nick (the founder) move their gear out of the Avondale pop-up they had been running and we were discussing a new space he was looking at in Onehunga. He was wondering who he could approach to sub-lease the space for a café during the day. I had just returned from the wine harvest in Martinborough and was planning my next move, the timing couldn’t have been better and I jumped at the chance!

What made you choose to work with Kōkako?
There are so many great options when it comes to coffee in New Zealand but Kōkako was always our first choice. I always respected the way Mike went about things and we wanted to align ourselves with a supplier that shared our values; quality, sustainability & community. The response to the coffee so far has validated the decision. Doesn’t hurt that we have two amazing baristas either!

Note from Kōkako: Round of applause for that oat milk latte art.

What is it about O.N.E that gives it such a sense of community? Do you have any firsthand examples/stories of that community feel?
It always starts with the people. Both our team and our customers are pretty amazing and that creates the atmosphere. Onehunga is a real town within Auckland, so many people have lived here for over 20 years. This, and being aligned with Everybody Eats, means there’s a really positive attitude to the place and that shows through as soon as you walk through the doors. We have a lovely regular customer who comes in daily from her retirement home and sits down for a coffee & muffin. She is often joined for a chat by other locals that know her from her strolls down the Mall and sometimes offered a lift home or shouted a coffee. She’s a real Onehunga identity and it’s great to see how the community embraces her. We were so pleased to see her back again in Level 3 as this time has certainly been tough for the older generation.

With the COVID-19 lockdown closures, you had to shut for a month before reopening for level 3 as a takeaway only cafe. How did you navigate this, and how did it change your business? Do you see any of these changes as a positive, to continue with going forward?
There are always positives to find in any situation and I think this is no different. Lockdown was a great chance to get on top of the to-do list and re-look at the menu and our offering. The way the hospo community came together was great as well with Facebook groups, group chats etc popping up and folks helping one another out with general café stuff as well as pandemic related questions. Our business has definitely changed, but businesses have to keep evolving anyway so this just pushed us into new directions perhaps faster than we would otherwise. Online ordering is something we always wanted to do but felt the public didn’t have the appetite for. With Level 3 our customers were kind of forced into it but they have really enjoyed the experience and now many are continuing to use it in Level 2. Our menu has also changed often over the last few weeks as we find out what people are wanting in this new environment. It’s all about constantly adapting to what people want and that will continue regardless of whether we are in the midst of a global pandemic or not!

If you got any downtime during lockdown, what did you spend your days doing?
I thought that I was going to do nothing at all that first week, but ended up being very productive. Like most people most of my day revolved around food! I did manage to run to the top of Maungakiekie every second day to balance out the food exceeds though and my brother was in the midst of film school so I found out that I have no aspirations to become an actor any time soon.

What did you miss most about not being able to open during lockdown, and what do you enjoy most about owning a cafe?
The hustle & bustle of the mornings and folk dropping in for their morning coffee. There’s always a story to be told and everything just went on hold for a few months. It’s very surreal to pick back up again and hear everyone’s experiences over lockdown. 

What's your coffee order of choice?
Long black. But our baristas are authorised to swap that for decaf if they feel like I’ve been overdoing it, so daily! 


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