“Go Vino” now “Kaizen”

12 Oct 2021

“Go Vino” now “Kaizen”

Cooks Beach restaurant Go Vino has changed its name to Kaizen - a move that works well on a couple of levels for owners, Ryan and Ginny Laird.

Kaizen is a Japanese word meaning “continuous improvement”, a philosophy introduced by car company, Toyota, in the 1980s to instill a culture of better efficiency and quality in the workplace. “We were looking around for a new name and Kaizen reflects our culture and ethos and the way we do things,” said Ryan.

Go Vino was the name that Ryan called his first business in Hamilton 18 years ago, but his life and his business had slowly evolved over the years and the name no longer represented the type of eatery he and Ginny are now operating. So, under a major rebranding exercise, “Go Vino” is being phased out and “Kaizen” is its replacement.

Ryan, who has a business management degree, said he encountered the meaning of kaizen in his studies and it was a philosophy that suited his way of doing things. “I agree with that philosophy of making small incremental improvements to your life because it means you don’t take great risks, but you are always doing things to make things better. It’s an evolution rather than a gamble.”

Ryan’s history in the restaurant trade reflects that policy of always making change for the better as you go along. After six years as a bit of an international vagabond working in the hospitality trade, and also doing a bit of busking and fire-dancing when other work was not to be found, he returned to New Zealand where he set up Go Vino in Hamilton. It was a wine store servicing locals, restaurants and customers going to local BYO eateries to dine. In a move to improve profitability Ryan added a tapas bar, being very familiar and with the tapas culture in Spain. “My time overseas set me up with the skills to develop Go Vino and Kaizen,” said Ryan.

Some 14 years ago, Ryan took advantage of a golden opportunity to set up a business in the Cooks Beach town centre. For a time, he operated the two Go Vino tapas bars, but travelling constantly between the two took its strain and eventually he and his business partner split up, with Ryan getting the Cooks Beach operation and his former partner the Hamilton one. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been ploughed into the Cooks beach business turning it into an elegant eatery, with an intimate garden dining area in an oasis of greenery.

Ryan said that over the years, the restaurant had evolved away from being a tapas bar to being a restaurant that offered modern shared plates. He liked the idea of Kaizen being split into “kai”, a word all New Zealanders understood as food, and  then “zen”. 

“Zen is about living in the moment,” Ryan said. “And I think that is a good idea to apply when you are dining, if you are enjoying the food, the wine and the people you are with. You are not thinking about how your day went or thinking about tomorrow. You are with your people and you are sharing a tasting experience.

“Because our plates are shared plates, you are tasting the same thing as everyone else at the table. The plates come out one at a time so there is no clash of flavours of plates coming out all at once.”

Ryan said their dishes were essentially mini-main meals. “So, they have the complexity of a full meal but you are going to have multiple taste sensations. Shared meals were the way humans were supposed to eat. I believe very strongly that shared plate is a what we are naturally comfortable with, whether it is a BBQ, pizza, Sunday roast or a picnic.

“There is a natural shared experience. That is what we have been doing for thousands of years and then suddenly restaurants say you should have a meal of your own, which is wrong.”

The Go Vino name will be phased out over time. “It will be a slow evolution,” Ryan said. “The reason we still have it is because we don’t want people to think we have gone out of business, when nothing could be further from the truth.”

In the past some customers did not understand the brand Go Vino as it did not resonate with what the restaurant actually did. “They said it sounds a bit like a takeaway wine shop, which is where we came from originally, but over time our focus has moved to our unique style of food,” Ryan said. “But the label or brand has been around for 18 years, so that is why we are doing the name change slowly.”

Ryan said that, while Covid had brought many challenges to those in the hospitality industry, the off-season this year was very good as their local customers, being unable to travel, had supported them as much as possible. He and Ginny felt very connected to the Cooks Beach community and were humbled by the support that they had received over the years.

Pictured - Ryan and Ginny laird, the owners of Kaizen (formerly Go Vino) in Cooks Beach, with their son, Aart.