NZ Herald

NZ Herald

Black Pineapple’s Extraordinary Growth - Business Five Times Bigger Than It Was Last Year

Auckland drinks catering company Black Pineapple is experiencing extraordinary growth, and is today five times bigger than it was this time last year.

The small firm operating effectively a travelling bar was founded by former Lion executive Frankie Walker in 2017. Over the past three years the company has experienced more than 200 per cent growth annually. Last year its growth topped 390 per cent, and this year it forecasts to end the year up between 430 and 500 percent.

Black Pineapple is on track to hit $1 million in revenue by March, the end of its current financial year.

In the past 18 months Black Pineapple has moved from Walker’s dining room table to a commercial kitchen in Kingsland and has become a fulltime venture. It has also invested in its own equipment and supplies such as glasses, and taken on three fulltime staff. It has a book of about 45 staff it contracts to work events. Walker ran the business as a part-time gig for about two and a half years before leaving Lion at the end of 2018 to focus on the venture. The company’s business, which specialises in larger-scale events, is split 80:20 between corporate clients for functions and individual hires for weddings and anniversaries.

“This time last year we didn’t have a home for the business, so a massive step for us was taking on a commercial premises – it means we can operate at a completely different level,” Walker told the Herald, adding that the company had never turned down an event.

Over the summer months Black Pineapple can host up to 15 events each week, but on average does about five. It hold a record for making 3500 cocktails in one night. It has a week coming up in March which Walker said would be “bigger than its biggest month” on the books last year.

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Walker, who moved to New Zealand from England 14 years ago, has run multiple bars and restaurants, worked “every hospitality position possible” and previously ran his own hospitality consultancy in London.

At Lion, he was a brand ambassador team lead and built out the team for its spirits portfolio.

Over those two and a half years of running Black Pineapple as a side-hustle, Walker said he worked his day job and the events through the night, often working 17-hour days.

“I’d built the business to a point where I could see I had to sort of throw my hat over the wall,” Walker said. “The hardest thing I ever did was saying the words to my boss that I was going to move on, but the minute I said it I have literally not regretted for a second since then. I have not looked back for a second, and I absolutely loved my job at Lion, but you can’t beat doing you’re own thing – it is so rewarding.”

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Until now, about $250,000 had been invested in the business. The company is looking to tap into opportunities with the festival market, despite it being a high volume, low margin model, Walker said.

“I think we can do a better job than how it is currently being done. If we have a better product and can serve people way quicker and give people an experience and drinks worth paying a little bit extra for, we can make sure everyone wins,” he said.

“We’ve just made an investment in a custom-built eight-metre-long portable module bar with tap units, so that’s going to give us the ability to go into new areas we are looking to push into, such as VIP bars for events and festivals.”

Its business model is that it hires “expert” wait and bar-tending staff and pays well to secure them and “respect the skill they have”. Its long-term plan is to grow big enough to employ its contract staff as full-timers.

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