Food in the 20th century

Page 2 – Dining out

Eat, drink and be merry: dining out in 20th-century New Zealand

Before the 1960s, New Zealanders had a limited choice both of venue and of food if they wanted to dine out. Restaurants, cafes, dining rooms of hotels, tearooms, coffee shops and oyster bars served up a narrow menu of grilled meats and hearty desserts.

Alcohol could not be served with food until 1961. Changes in the liquor licensing laws that year allowed its consumption outside hotels, including those such as the Chateau Tongariro which were run by the government's tourism section.

Drinking alcohol in public bars and hotels was subject to stringent regulation, although not necessarily policing, for much of the 20th century. women and Māori were not always allowed to enter hotels or to purchase alcohol, and some districts had a total prohibition on alcohol sales.

New Zealand introduced six o'clock closing in 1917 as a wartime measure, and in response to the campaigns of the temperance and prohibition movements. Closing times did not alter until 1967, when the introduction of 10 p.m. closing brought an end to the 'six o'clock swill'. Changed closing times also led to new places serving alcohol, such as the popular 1960s Auckland venue, the MonDesir Beer Garden. Here the surroundings were considerably more pleasant than the majority of pubs, some of which were literally standing-room only - chairs were removed to make way for more drinkers in the busy hour between the end of work and closing time.

A more sophisticated culture of food, cooking and dining out developed from the late 1950s. The combined influence of New Zealanders returning from abroad and new migrant groups - members of which helped establish New Zealand's winemaking industry - widened culinary expectations here. Each major centre boasted a Chinese restaurant by 1960, and recipe books included more 'exotic' dishes featuring rice, pasta and spices. North American influences were seen in the development of hamburger bars and the fast food chains that appeared in the 1970s. The first Kentucky Fried Chicken opened on 20 August 1971 (in Auckland's Royal Oak), followed by Pizza Hut in September 1974 and McDonald’s, the first of which opened its doors in Porirua on 7 June 1976.

How to cite this page

'Dining out', URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 13-Jul-2020