Push to bring back popular Christchurch lunch spot Carnivores

One-time Carnivores franchisee and former Black Cap Craig McMillan serves customers at Northlands mall in 2003.

Kirk Hargreaves / Stuff

One-time Carnivores franchisee and former Black Cap Craig McMillan serves customers at Northlands mall in 2003.

The owner of a popular Christchurch lunch spot that served hungry Cantabrians for 20 years wants to bring back his meaty rolls and sandwiches.

Carnivores first opened on Manchester St in the central city in 1995, then expanded to two suburban malls. However, the three outlets closed one by one, the last about 2015.

Gary Doig – the owner of the Carnivores brand – is now seeking a new business partner and new premises, so he can reopen, starting with the central city.

“It was great food and so popular – it would be great to have it back. There’s nothing around like it, ”Doig said.

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“I just need the right site and the right investor and the right landlord.”

As well as being the self-described “home of honey chicken”, Carnivores also sold spiced and crumbed chicken, roast beef, pork strips, bacon, and sausages, served with sauces and salads.

Food came in the form of a sandwich, roll, or boxed meal, with the meats cooked on the premises.

Lunchtime queues often stretched out of the Manchester St shop onto the footpath, rivalling the popularity of the big international takeaway chains.

Carnivores described itself as the home of honey chicken.

David Alexander / Stuff

Carnivores described itself as the home of honey chicken.

The shop did not reopen after the September 2010 earthquake.

In 2003, franchised Carnivores outlets opened at Eastgate and Northlands malls. The ultimate plan was for a national chain, but that did not eventuate.

Both mall franchises were owned by national sports stars.

The Northlands store was first opened by then Black Cap cricketer Craig McMillan and former All Black Greg Feek. The Eastgate outlet, owned by Black Cap Chris Harris and his wife Linda, closed in 2005 and their business went into liquidation.

Gary Doig at the Northlands Carnivores outlet in 2005. He is looking for a new franchisee and new premises.

David Alexander / Stuff

Gary Doig at the Northlands Carnivores outlet in 2005. He is looking for a new franchisee and new premises.

Doig bought the Carnivores group in 2004 with business partner Tony Clarke, who has since retired. The pair subsequently bought back the Northlands operation, which they kept going after the earthquakes but closed a few years later. Mall rents had been high, he said.

Doig formed a new company, Carnivores Ltd, in April 2020, and is now looking for a new franchisee, perhaps with more to follow.

His website says he is looking for an experienced food operator. They might have a current business that could be rebranded, or add Carnivores alongside what they already offer.

“Be part of bringing Carnivores back!” the site says.

Doig said he would consider expanding the original menu, perhaps adding vegetarian or gluten-free items. Breakfast or dinner items might also be considered.

He said he wanted a franchisee who would build the business back up and help to expand the brand further.

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The financial outlay to be part of a home-grown product would be “a fraction” of what a major takeaway franchise would cost, he said.

He’d had “some discussions” about potential sites. Ideally, they would be ready to open in summer, he said.

“It would be great to find something small like the good old days in Manchester St, and then go from there, maybe out to the suburbs.

“It’s been out of the central city for so many years. The city has just changed so much, the time looks right to get back. “

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