Visa Wellington On a Plate - a recipe for success

Client story  \  1 Jan 2018

Visa Wellington On A Plate, Visa WOAP, is an annual, region-wide, 17-day culinary extravaganza. Bringing together hundreds of businesses and restaurants, the festival’s events include a dining programme, pop-ups, chef collaborations, a cocktail competition, a burger competition, and Beervana – a two-day celebration of craft beer attracting 16,000 people alone.


Visa WOAP is the brainchild of Sarah Meikle. Sarah’s interest in tourism and hospitality sparked from the influence of her father, who owned various bars and restaurants during her childhood. Back in 2007, the hospitality industry was struggling in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, and August had become widely known as ‘Dull August’. At this time, Sarah was working at Positively Wellington Tourism and recognised this as an opportunity to develop food and hospitality events to liven up the month of August. Positively Wellington partnered with Wellington Regional Development Economic Agency to bring Sarah’s idea to life, with the first festival planned and delivered in an astounding six weeks.

Visa WOAP was an immediate success and has grown every year from 39 participants in the first year to over 266 in 2018, and draws visitors from throughout New Zealand, Australia, and beyond. Sarah is now CEO of the Wellington Culinary Events Trust (WCET), a non-profit organisation established in 2014 to own and manage the festival.

The challenge

With interest in the festival rapidly growing, WCET recognised the importance of protecting its ON A PLATE, WOAP, and BEERVANA brands and the festival’s reputation, but it wasn’t as simple as protecting a particular look. The festival has a changing annual theme, it needs to refresh its visual identity from time to time, and collaboration with sponsorship partners is essential.

“There have been several instances where opportunistic parties have attempted to replicate festivals of a similar nature, using the trade marks ON A PLATE or Beervana without permission. These challenges are a continuous obstacle. There appears to be a lack of education and general understanding around intellectual property, particularly in the use of trade marked words. People often forget that negligence isn’t an excuse.” – Sarah Meikle, CEO  of WCET.

The solution

In the early days of Visa WOAP, Sarah asked the firm to help protect the festival’s concept and trade marks. Working with Sarah and WCET, we developed a strategy to suit their needs.

We recognised the importance of strong, broad protection, as well as ensuring that ON A PLATE remains unique to the Wellington festival. Enforcement has also been part of the intellectual property strategy from year one, to prevent copycats from imitating or tarnishing WCET’s hard-earned reputation.

Part of Visa WOAP’s success is due to Sarah and WCET regularly reviewing the festival’s strategy and adding new aspects as it develops and grows. Kate Giddens, Senior Associate - Trade marks, works with Sarah to regularly assess the intellectual property portfolio, ensuring any new direction or brands are protected. Over the years this has included protecting new ways the ON A PLATE brand is used, along with the festival’s other brands ‘Beervana’, ‘WOAP’ and ‘Eat, Drink & Be Welly’.

“Kate and the team have supported us every step of the way. They have made each process seamless and have provided us with the guidelines and resources we need to make decisions independently and to feel confident about them. We hold this in high regard as it enables us to primarily focus on our day-to-day business operations without having to escalate matters every time. We feel reassured that the team is there if we need expert advice.” – Sarah Meikle.

The conclusion

Over the course of Visa WOAP’s existence, we have provided ongoing support to Sarah and WCET. The firm has assisted WCET safeguard the festival, advise on commercial agreements, and draft IP clauses to help protect this now iconic event. The misuse of ON A PLATE by other parties has steadily diminished as the rights in the name have solidified.

Always ready to step in when needed, the firm has provided the support needed for Sarah to approach infringers directly. This modern and flexible approach has allowed the festival to build and maintain its relationships. Education and positivity have achieved a lot more than formal cease and desist letters could have.

“Enforcing our intellectual property rights has been paramount to Visa WOAP’s success. We have a system in place for arising issues. We aim to settle issues as amicably as possible and very rarely do we need to take things further. To us, success is knowing that no duplicate festivals exist and there are no instances of our trade marks being used without permission.” – Sarah Meikle.

WCET has built a strong reputation, not only in Wellington but across New Zealand. We are proud to be associated with the success of WCET and the unique and exciting events delivered year after year.

To learn more about the festival, visit the Visa Wellington On a Plate website.