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Play of the Week #7

Play of the Week #7

By Carmen Ng

Farmers in the Pandemic: Self deliveries, Increased Product Offerings, and Online Ordering

It has been one year since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, sending many food retail businesses into a frenzy. With many employers scrambling to redesign their ordering methods, reorganize their employees, and adapt their businesses, farmers were one part of the food chain that were hit hard.

When CERB came out last year, many employees chose to drop out of their work because it would be safer to stay at home and still have a consistent income. Losing employees is always hard on businesses, especially in places of increased demand for food products and reliability on physical labour, such as farms, restaurants, and grocery stores. Many had to make tough decisions on what aspect of their business that they had enough resources to support. A commercial farmer in Ayton, Ontario initially decided to open for curbside pick-up for those willing to visit the farm.  However, later in the year, they ultimately adopted a strategy to close down visitation into the farm and reuse the money that they would need for PPE and cleaning routines, to other priorities such as putting together a cohesive website, social media, and an efficient delivery service.

Interview insights…

“In the winters we could, and did, have individuals or family bubbles come out and do farm visitations. But there is costs for when we book in somebody to come out for an hour and a half… we need to pay for that (referencing PPE and increased staff). Instead, we could be doing other stuff with that time and resources like putting it towards gas for deliveries or website design.” – Farmer in Ayton, Ontario

In person deliveries have increased during the pandemic, with farm owners and their employees often willing to drive to people’s homes for personal delivery. This has increased farm-to-customer relationships and helped boost morale during isolation periods, especially amongst rural communities. Since the closing of farmers markets, local farmers are able to stay connected to their regular customers during the pandemic through this way. In addition, farmers have increased product offerings ever since starting in-person delivery services. This has increased interest and online orders but does come with added costs and time for the often labour-strapped farm businesses.

Interview insights…

“We also had to increase our product offering greatly. When we were doing markets, it was just our dairy, lamb and wool products. For online we said, if they’re going to spend money and take the time to come on the website, we may as well offer them something else. Plus, if we’re going to be driving in and using valuable gas resources, better to make it worth everybody’s time. Just delivering one thing is silly, we may as well try and offer what other people are offering. It also kept people coming back. This week they might want some fish, so because we’re lucky enough to have a local stable fish farm right up the road from us, it is fine, we’ll go offer their fish and help them out too.” – Farmer in Ayton, Ontario

Resources

Agri-Food Open for E-Business Program http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/cap/ebusiness.htm

Guide to Operating your Essential Farm Business during COVID-19 https://ofa.on.ca/resources/guide-to-operating-your-essential-farm-business-during-covid-19/


Make your voice heard at https://gofresher.theheal.ca, and stay tuned in to the conversation through our social media pages (@FRESHER_Canada) and website at https://fresher.theheal.ca.

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Play of the Week #6

Play of the Week #6

By Lindsey Soon

Prix Fixe Menus: Short but Sweet

During the pandemic, challenges within supply chains impacted food retail offerings and menus. A manager of a popular Toronto flagship chain restaurant described:

Interview insights…

“Our suppliers were out of so many products for a long time at the beginning of the pandemic. Just basic stuff, like green onions and tomatoes that we now have to go outsource. It’s one thing if you run out during normal times – you would just run to the grocery store and go buy it, but now when you go, you have to go line up for 45 minutes just to buy some tomatoes.”

With challenges in securing produce and other supply orders for various reasons, restaurants have been forced to adapt their menu and product offerings based on what they’re able to get their hands on. Supply chain issues along with reduced customer volumes cause additional challenges to restaurants offering a large menu. Because of this, some restaurants have reduced the number of product offerings, and in some cases created special limited menus for delivery and takeout. A London-based restaurant owner described how he had to change this menu:

Interview insights…

 “For the takeout, there’s one appetizer, and there’s a choice of two entrées, and then one dessert. It’s very, very limited. It’s not everything on our regular menu.”

Rather than offering a full menu, many restaurants have opted to cut down their menus and created what is often referred to as a prix fixe menu. Prix fixe, is French for “fixed price” and refers to a type of menu featuring a pre-selected list of dishes at a set price. These menus are most often found in upscale restaurants and presented at social occasions. These menus usually consist of 3-5 courses with 2-3 options per course for a set price. These new menu styles have been becoming increasingly popular and have become a more casual option when taking-out food. This practice allows flexibility in a restaurant’s menu as these prix fixe menus can change as needed. These menus are attractive to customers due to their reasonable prices (perhaps for a restaurant you wouldn’t normally try) and plays on a sense of urgency due to its limited time offer. Furthermore, this practice allows restaurants to adjust their menus based on product availability and avoid food waste, two important strategies in the times of COVID-19.

In past years, events such as Winterlicious and Summerlicious have been held in the City of Toronto and consist of a prix fixe program offered by 200 of Toronto’s dining establishments. Recently, Save Hospitality, an organization to connect with various levels of government to address the impacts COVID-19 has had on independent restaurants throughout the country, held an event called Localicious as a way to promote and garner support for local restaurant businesses. During this past year of COVID-19, communities have realized the importance of a strong and resilient local food scene and events like these may be of interest to Business Improvement Areas and other stakeholder organizations as a way to promote eating local while providing customers with the opportunity to try new restaurants.


Make your voice heard at https://gofresher.theheal.ca, and stay tuned in to the conversation through our social media pages (@FRESHER_Canada) and website at https://fresher.theheal.ca.

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Play of the Week #5

Play of the Week #5

By Marcello Vecchio

Teamwork in times of Distress

As we enter the 1-year anniversary of the beginning of lockdowns in Ontario, there has been an opportunity to reflect on what strategies have allowed food retail and hospitality businesses to stay afloat and continue offering services to their community. One of the most encouraging strategies was the spirit of collaboration between businesses. FRESHER has documented several examples of how local vendors have been teaming up to sell or promote each other’s products to their individual customer base. Although not a new concept, the importance of these collaborations has been showcased during the past 12 months.

One simple partnership took place in London, where a local formalwear seller offered a discount of up to $250 on suit purchases when a receipt from any downtown restaurant was shown. An owner of a downtown restaurant said that this example was one of many that he had noticed. During these times, many businesses have chosen to work together instead of trying to survive alone. He also noted that many of his customers specifically requested receipts to take advantage of this promotion.

Another example of collaboration was in Thunder Bay, where local sports bars have coordinated their beer deliveries together so they can cut back on costs and still provide consumers with the specialized beers they enjoy. Additionally, Sleeping Giant Brewery Company in Thunder Bay promoted their yearly “Craft Cares” promotion, which donated $0.50 from every product sold to local organizations, among them being local restaurants which they credit as part of the success of their brand.

These are just a few examples of the resiliency through collaboration at the business level offering mutual benefit and success for all parties involved. COVID-19 has clearly showed us that mitigating the impacts of the pandemic, whether it be health or economic, is an all-hands-on deck issue.

Resources

Business Resiliency Advice
https://www.foodsafetynews.com/2021/01/industrys-resilience-with-food-safety-practices-will-be-crucial-in-2021/

Digital Main Streets Program
https://programs.digitalmainstreet.ca/shophere-signup

Find your Local BIA
https://obiaa.com/members


Make your voice heard at https://gofresher.theheal.ca, and stay tuned in to the conversation through our social media pages (@FRESHER_Canada) and website at https://fresher.theheal.ca.

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Play of the Week #4

Play of the Week #4

By Rebecca Clarke

Meal Kits

Meal kit delivery services have been growing in popularity throughout the course of the pandemic. The current situation has resulted in more time being spent cooking at home rather than eating out at restaurants. Cooking fatigue has set in for many people and as a result they have been searching for ways to get reinspired in the kitchen. Meal kits are a great solution, as they allow you to learn new recipes, get creative in the kitchen, shorten meal preparation time, and eliminate time spent at the grocery store. Additionally, the instructions are easy to follow, and the ingredients are high-quality. Restaurants all over Canada have also been taking advantage of the meal kit business model. Restaurant meal kits allow customers to receive ingredients that they can use to make fresh meals that are almost identical to what they would receive at a restaurant. So instead of ordering a meal kit in the mail, reach out to a local restaurant in the community to create that experience you may have been missing at home!

Interview insights…

“We consolidated all of our restaurants and created an online store to sell meal kits that include BBQ packs, vegan foods, take and bake, pretty much everything. We have seen a decrease in revenue, but I’m thankful to have the bit of revenue that we do have coming from the meal kits.” – Restaurant Owner in London, ON, October 19th 2020

Resource Links 

How to start a meal kit service – https://www.dailykit.org/5-steps-to-start-a-meal-kit-service#step_1_get_operation_ready

Meal kits in Canada, 2021 Comparison – https://mealkitscanada.ca/

Toronto Restaurants Offering Ready-To-Make Meals and DIY Kits – https://www.tastetoronto.com/guides/toronto-restaurants-offering-ready-to-make-meals-and-diy-kits

Restaurant franchise systems – Tips for pivoting your business model to focus on delivery and take-out during dine-in prohibitions – https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=ab29c7b3-f2f4-4dfd-8476-e3c49e168427


Make your voice heard at https://gofresher.theheal.ca, and stay tuned in to the conversation through our social media pages (@FRESHER_Canada) and website at https://fresher.theheal.ca.

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Play of the Week #3

Play of the Week #3

By Rebecca Clarke

Necessity is the Mother of Invention

Walk down any main street in Ontario and you will find businesses that have boarded up their windows. These closed businesses are often located right next to businesses that continue to operate during the pandemic. In several cases, businesses have been able to remain open because they have responded to the pandemic situation with creativity and flexibility. Creative responses could be anything from a change in product offerings to altering their entire business model. For example, pizzerias such as Chef Bondi Pizzeria in St. Thomas, Ontario have created make-your-own-pizza kits with dough, cheese, tomato sauce and other toppings as a fun product for customers to make on their own time at home. Additionally, a restaurant owner in Vancouver decided to add a European-style market section to his tapas restaurant. He has continued to sell grocery items such as olives, cheese, almonds, rice, tinned fish and liquor even after the restaurant was allowed to reopen, as it has become an additional revenue stream to his main business. Throughout the pandemic, business owners have been coming up with creative ideas that they are putting into action with great success.

Interview insights…

“At the beginning of the pandemic, we created a grocery-style delivery service where we delivered fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy products, meats like chicken and pork and premade food every Saturday. We are basically running four different business models and seeing which one is the best to go with.” – Restaurant Owner, July 21st 2020

Resource Links 

A look at pandemic-era restaurant innovation: https://www6.royalbank.com/en/di/hubs/tech-and-culture/article/for-restaurants-uncertainty-fuels-innovation/kedfihj0

How restaurants are innovating during the COVID-19 pandemic: https://www.forbes.com/sites/eveturowpaul/2020/03/22/how-restaurants-innovating-during-the-covid-19-pandemic/?sh=5c2413362c2b

How restaurants are adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic: https://www.restaurantscanada.org/resources/down-but-not-out-how-restaurants-are-adapting-to-the-covid19-pandemic/


Make your voice heard at https://gofresher.theheal.ca, and stay tuned in to the conversation through our social media pages (@FRESHER_Canada) and website at https://fresher.theheal.ca.

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Deep Dish #7: Restaurants & The Era of Technology

Deep Dish #7: Restaurants & The Era of Technology 

By Rebecca Clarke

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The role of technology in the restaurant industry has become ever more apparent in recent months. Restaurant owners have placed increased attention on adopting new technologies to meet customer needs, cut costs, and increase efficiency (6). However, as the pandemic continues to impact this industry, restaurant owners are turning to more innovative technologies that can help to keep their businesses open.

Interview insights…

“There have been some positives to come out of the pandemic. It pushed us to move into the digital space, which we weren’t doing before.” – Restaurant Owner, November 25th

One of the ways that restaurants in Ontario are embracing new technologies is through ‘virtual/ghost kitchens’. These refer to food preparation spaces that only serve take-out and delivery products. These kitchens are changing the game in the restaurant industry because they allow restaurants to eliminate rental costs associated with operating a highly visible storefront and dining room (6). The virtual/ghost kitchen concept relies on online ordering and third-party delivery services (4). With the increased interest in food delivery and the concerns that consumers have with dining in restaurants, ghost kitchens are rising in popularity all over Ontario.

Interview insights…

“There was a restaurant space we had in mind on the west side of Toronto, the location wasn’t great, it wasn’t on a Main Street. We just completed a ghost kitchen deal there like two weeks ago. That particular group partners with a bunch of different restaurants across the city to produce food that goes out for delivery. This is a trend that absolutely makes sense and we’re going to see a lot more of it.” – Restaurant Industry Professional, September 1st

Interview Insights…

“At the beginning of the pandemic, it was just takeout and delivery. Even now most of our sales come from takeout and delivery.” – Restaurant Owner, November 23rd

Another technological change that is being quickly adopted by restaurants in Ontario is digital payment. A 2020 survey by Travis Credit Union found that 50% of those surveyed have less cash on them than prior to the pandemic (3). Also, three in five people, don’t believe that they will go back to using cash regularly when the pandemic is over (3). It is believed that paper currency may increase the chances for the virus to be spread from one person to another. Therefore, many restaurants have introduced ‘no cash’ policies to lessen the risk of infection for customers and employees (2). Due the COVID-19 pandemic, digital payment options such as smartphone-based payments and Tap n’ Go are being adopted by restaurants in Ontario at a rate much higher than in the past.

Virtual menus have also been on the rise as physical menus can pass through many hands at a restaurant, increasing the chances for the virus to be spread. Although many restaurants have strict policies in place to clean menus, in most cases this is not enough to make customers feel comfortable (2). This is why many restaurants have made the switch to using digital menus that can be viewed on any mobile device when a QR code is scanned with their phone’s camera (1). This option not only meets customer needs but also cuts the costs of having to print physical menus.

Screens within the kitchen and dining area is also a trend that is rising in popularity. Kitchen screens can speed up the time it takes to prepare orders and limit the passing of paper from one hand to the next. Table/reservation management systems also increase efficiency by freeing up employee time, reducing customer wait times and limiting employee and customer contact (5). Self-ordering kiosks, such as the ones used at many fast-food outlets over the last few years, are also being quickly adopted by more traditional restaurants.

Restaurant operators need to make sure that they are meeting consumer preferences now more than ever. The attention that is currently being placed on health and safety could push the industry into a new era (5). Within the current climate, restaurant operators need to not only make speed and convenience a focal point, but also health and safety. Technology solutions that allow operators to meet the needs of their customers by serving them remotely and offering touchless ordering options are key to the survival of the industry during the pandemic.

Interview insights…

“It doesn’t matter what type of business you have you just have to pivot. You know, this ain’t basketball we are playing. We’re playing with grenades and live ammo – it is warfare. It’s unfortunate but that’s the reality.” – Café Owner, November 23rd


Make your voice heard at https://gofresher.theheal.ca, and stay tuned in to the conversation through our social media pages (@FRESHER_Canada) and website at https://fresher.theheal.ca.

References

  1. Eatsee. (2020). Feast your eyes one the future of menus. Retrieved from https://eatsee.menu  
  2. Industry Today. 2020, June 15). Restaurant Technology during COVID-19. Retrieved from  https://industrytoday.com/restaurant-technology-during-covid-19/
  3. Krook, D. (2020). The Ultimate Guide to Payment Processing for Restaurants. Touch Bistro. Retrieved from https://www.touchbistro.com/blog/the-ultimate-guide-to-payment-processing-for-restaurants/  
  4. Olson, A. (2019, October 21). The rise of ‘ghost kitchens’: Here’s what the online food ordering boom has produced. USA Today. Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2019/10/21/ghost-kitchen-virtual-restaurant-heres-how-works/4053659002/
  5. The National Law Review. (2020, July 14). How Restaurants Could Use Advanced Tech to Survive the Pandemic and Beyond. Retrieved from https://www.natlawreview.com/article/how-restaurants-could-use-advanced-tech-to-survive-pandemic-and-beyond  
  6. Wiles, R. (2020, October 19). Robot cooks and virtual kitchens: How the restaurant industry looks to technology for help. Azcentral. Retrieved from https://www.azcentral.com/story/money/business/tech/2020/10/19/restaurants-turn-technology-help-industry-suffers-crisis/3625327001/  
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Deep Dish #6: COVID-19 Restrictions on the Retail Food and Hospitality Industry

Deep Dish #6:COVID-19 Restrictions on the Retail Food and Hospitality Industry

By Alexander Wray

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The COVID-19 pandemic has created a constantly shifting landscape of rules and regulations for the food retail and hospitality industry in Ontario. Given the need to rapidly respond to the virus, the Province of Ontario has adopted a flexible model to enable the resumption of most economic activity.

Early in the pandemic, the province established a three-stage system of restrictions that were implemented in consultation with local public health units. Stage 1 rules were the strictest with restaurants, bars, and other hospitality only being able to operate in a takeout and delivery model. Grocery stores and other food and beverage retail were limited in their capacity. Stage 2 rules relaxed restrictions on retail capacity, and allowed many restaurants and cafes to reopen with patio-only service. Stage 3 finally allowed many establishments reopen for indoor service.

Interview insights…

Owner: “I’ve got an emergency plan and a pandemic plan. Got everything in place. Different plans, actually, for one I open as well, and it’s quite detailed.”

Interviewer: “And is that the one provided by the province?”

Owner: “No… there was a [provincial] guideline that was pretty flimsy… I work in emergency management, that’s my background… they’re taking all our business away” – Restaurant Owner, June 18th

Amendments to the Reopening Ontario Act in October 2020 introduced a new colour-coded response framework to provide a visual cue of the active rules and restrictions (Figure 1). There are five levels to the response system, assigned at a regional level by the local public health unit:
• Prevent (Green): Minimal restrictions
• Protect (Yellow): Limits on operating hours, limits on serving alcohol, 6 maximum to a table, and contact tracing for all visitors
• Restrict (Orange): Further limits on operating hours and serving alcohol, 4 maximum to a table, and contact tracing for all visitors
• Control (Red): Outdoor dining permitted, maximum of 10 seated indoors, no live performances or dancing
• Lockdown (Grey): Takeout and delivery service only

Currently, Toronto and Peel remain in lockdown (grey), with much of the Greater Toronto Area in control (red), and the rest of the province in either restrict (orange) or protect (yellow) levels of restrictions. The only prevent (green) zones are: Algoma, Cochrane, Lanark, Leeds and Grenville, Nipissing, Parry Sound, Renfrew, and Timiskaming.

These varying operating conditions have forced many restaurants and other food-based hospitality entities to pivot to alternative business models such as offering new products, digitizing their business, adding a retail component to their operations, or operating only on takeout and delivery regardless of the pandemic condition. Some even are establishing their own “circuit breakers” to preemptively shutdown or scale back their operations based on the restrictions. For example, a popular Kitchener pub in November chose to close their doors preemptively when Waterloo Region was designated a red zone (source).

Interview insights…

“At full seating capacity, we had an occupancy of 28 café tables spread throughout… when this all hit we closed our storefront. We were only through pre-order, so can either order it for pickups or let us know you were here so we would run it out to a table we had waiting that was right on the sidewalk… We are seeing the same spend pre-COVID versus post-COVID, it is just an increase in foot traffic because we worked as hard as we did to become accessible, even in a time where nobody wanted to be out and about.” – Pastry Shop, August 5th

The new pandemic restrictions may provide clarity for businesses on their operating conditions. However, without projections of the timeline to return to orange, yellow, or green conditions, many operators report frustration in planning for their business. In addition, the overhead costs associated with contact tracing leave many in the hospitality industry frustrated given the same standards are not applied to food retailers (Figure 2). Moreover, cyclical lockdowns and red zone designations often renders many investments in personal protective equipment and infrastructure to enable indoor dining as ineffective in supporting business success. Given the pandemic situation will likely still be of serious concern in 2021, improvement of Ontario’s reopening framework should be a priority for supporting the Ontario food retail and hospitality industry.


Make your voice heard at https://gofresher.theheal.ca, and stay tuned in to the conversation through our social media pages (@FRESHER_Canada) and website at https://fresher.theheal.ca.

References

  1. Government of Ontario. (2020). Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act. Retrieved from https://www.ontario.ca/laws/statute/20r17
  2. Government of Ontario. (2020). O.Reg. 263/20: Rules for Areas in Stage 2. Retrieved from: https://www.ontario.ca/laws/regulation/200263
  3. Government of Ontario. (2020). Map of COVID-19 Zones: December 8, 2020. https://www.ontario.ca/page/covid-19-response-framework-keeping-ontario-safe-and-open
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Play of the Week #2

Play of the Week #2

By Rebecca Clarke

Adapt to Survive

One of the hardest hit industries by the COVID-19 pandemic has been the retail food and hospitality industry. Many business owners within this industry have been forced to adapt their operating models to stay open. These adaptations include asking staff to learn new skills and cross-train between different front of house and back of house roles, adopting new technologies, increasing online presence, introducing contactless payment options, adding new revenue streams (i.e. selling pre-packaged products), offering takeout and delivery, instituting new safety measures, and altering menu offerings. It is important to keep in mind that once emergency measures are lifted across Ontario, it will not be back to business as usual. Thus, in most cases, the businesses that are going to survive this pandemic are the ones that are willing to continually adapt to shifting consumer preferences and changing government restrictions.

Interview insights…

“I’ll give you an example, scones were my biggest seller, everyone would come in for a coffee and a scone between 8:00 – 9:00 a.m. I completely took scones off my menu list about a month ago because I kept making them and just throwing them out as no one was buying them. It’s just because the demographic has changed.” – Café Owner, November 12th

Resource Links 

Guidelines on how restaurants and cafés can adapt to the pandemic from Facebook for Business:
https://www.facebook.com/business/small-business/resource/restaurants

Mainstreet Recovery Plan:
https://news.ontario.ca/en/release/58708/ontario-supports-small-main-street-businesses-with-60-million-in-funding-through-ppe-grant

Restaurant and food services health and safety during COVID-19:
https://www.ontario.ca/page/restaurant-and-food-services-health-and-safety-during-covid-19

Tips on bringing contactless experiences to your restaurant: 
https://www.ncr.com/blogs/restaurants/what-is-contactless-and-how-can-i-offer-it-to-my-restaurant-guests


Make your voice heard at https://gofresher.theheal.ca, and stay tuned in to the conversation through our social media pages (@FRESHER_Canada) and website at https://fresher.theheal.ca.

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Deep Dish #5: Winter Patios

Deep Dish #5: Winter Patios

By Marcello Vecchio

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Winter is coming, and in some cities of the Great White North, it is already here! For many Canadians, the cold weather signals a time to put away the outdoor furniture, get the snow shovels out of storage, and stay indoors as much as possible. This year, the continuing waves of COVID-19 will make staying-in even more favourable. For restaurateurs however, this is just more bad news in a year that seems to keep bringing mounting challenges. When initial lockdown measures were loosened in May and June of 2020, patio and outdoor dining became the lifeline for many establishments that were teetering on financial failure.

Interview insights…

A pub in London, Ontario described how regulatory changes allowed their patio to be expanded into their parking lot and utilize space that usually sat empty. The increased patio size allowed for employees to be hired back and service to continue at sustainable levels. “It was huge for us, customers finally felt safe to come eat and have a drink outside.”

Indeed, many cities raced to cut the red tape it took to open or expand a patio, knowing that they were a safe and easy measure to keep the industry alive (1). In late spring and early autumn many patrons were willing to dress for the weather so they could enjoy their favourite pint and meal outside; however, asking people to dine outside when it is twenty below may bring mostly cold stares, even from the most seasoned wintery Canadians. Many cities have extended patio seasons to cover the winter months (2), and many businesses have responded by buying up patio heaters and propane fireplaces in the attempt to get a few more weeks out of their patios. These, however, are short-term solutions.

Interview insights…

One individual in the restaurant industry stated that she is grateful that the City of Waterloo has allowed them to extend their outdoor patio until the end of the year. Along with the purchase of heaters, she is hoping this will attract people to the restaurant in the cooler months.  

To survive as an industry, it will take more than heaters, tarps, and blankets. Both businesses and communities need to be creative. Luckily, Canadians are not novices when it comes to adapting to winter. Organizing activities around the colder months is a fact of life for many Canadians. Ironically, many people flock to ‘winter cities’ such as Ottawa, Edmonton, Montreal, and Quebec City to take part in outdoor winter festivals and markets. Runny noses and red cheeks are small prices to pay for a warm Beaver Tail after a cold skate on the Rideau Canal, or the sticky sweet goodness of tire d’érable during winter carnival in Québec City.  These Canadian traditions raise the question, why can’t we capitalize on Winter instead of trying to fight it?

Out in the frozen west, cities like Edmonton, Winnipeg and Calgary have led the charge in creative ways to winterize outdoor dining. Edmonton specifically, has been working on ‘embracing the chill’ since 2017. Many establishments have installed heaters, outdoor grills, wood fires, and changed menus to better suit the weather (3). The city has provided detailed guides on how to design four season patios, focusing on solar access, awnings, providing blankets, heating sources, and using insulated furniture (4). Additionally, some businesses around the country are installing bubble structures or ‘dining igloos’ that segregate private dining groups and protect patrons from the elements, but some have raised the concern that the difference between these and indoor dining is negligible in terms of limiting the spread of COVID and in some cases, have even been shut down by health officials (5).

Interview insights…

A restaurant in Collingwood, Ontario described when they were allowed to open their patio in early summer of 2020, they had initial success, “we were beating our monthly sales from the year before with just our patio when we opened.” However, they were worried about continuing this into the colder months. “We have patio heaters, we have had them for a long time, and they were definitely helpful in November, but the concern is when temperatures really drop.”

However, if cases are locally stabilized and health protocols are followed, COVID-safe winter festivals or open markets may be a perfect way for communities to gather safely over the winter months. By utilizing empty parking lots, city parks, or fair grounds, cities can organize safe outdoor food and drink festivals, skate-up markets, and travelling food truck meetups that get people outside and allow businesses to continue to operate. Cities that are fortunate to already have winter recreation facilities like outdoor rinks, ski hills, and winter trails can further capitalize by integrating food and drink options where it is safe to do so.  

The potential success for all these ideas hinges on our ability to keep cases down, and follow the rules of local health authorities. The recent move back into a lockdown scenario for some large cities, makes the idea of investing in costly components to winterize patios unfeasible for many locations (6). One restaurant in Toronto purchased 10 mini greenhouses for $1000/each back in October, but now with in-person dining banned again, this $10,000 investment does not seem to be paying off (7). However, if cases stabilize and outdoor dining is deemed safe to continue, some businesses will be able to slow down the financial hemorrhaging during a time they usually counted on in the past with holiday parties and family outings. Further, the investment into winterized patios is not a COVID-only investment. Even when things return to ‘normal,’ whatever that turns out to be, local governments and community organizations should continue to push for winterizing their cities. Improving outdoor spaces and integrating them with the food retail sector will reap rewards in all four seasons of the year.


Make your voice heard at https://gofresher.theheal.ca, and stay tuned in to the conversation through our social media pages (@FRESHER_Canada) and website at https://fresher.theheal.ca.

References

  1. Bicknell, B. (2020, June 12). Restaurant patios back in business in London. CTV News. Retrieved from https://london.ctvnews.ca
  2. City of Toronto News Release (2020, October 27). City Council approves extended winter patio program for curbside cafes and expanded private patios. City of Toronto. Retrieved from https://www.toronto.ca/news
  3. City of Edmonton (2020). Winter Patios. Winter City Edmonton. Retrieved from https://www.wintercityedmonton.ca/be-social/winter-patios-2/
  4. City of Edmonton (2017). Four Seasons Patio Design Tips. Winter City Edmonton. Retrieved from https://www.edmonton.ca/city_government/documents/PDF/all-season-patio-design-tips.pdf
  5. Warzecha, M. (2020, November 4). Bubble Trouble: Are dining domes safe? Ottawa Citizen. Retrieved from https://ottawacitizen.com/
  6. News Staff (2020, November 20). Toronto and Peel moving back into lockdown on Monday: Ford. City News Toronto. Retrieved from https://toronto.citynews.ca
  7. Canadian Press (2020, October 21). Restaurants doubt winter patios will save industry. Orangeville. Retrieved from https://www.orangeville.com
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Play of the Week #1

Play of the Week #1

By Rebecca Clarke

It’s time to get online!

With constantly changing COVID-19 rules, it is increasingly important for the retail food and hospitality industry, particularly restaurants, to get online. Digitalizing your business can help to increase awareness of your services, streamline the ordering process, build your brand, increase sales and more. Some ways to increase your online presence include creating a website, getting on social media, offering digital gift cards, and joining a local, app-based delivery service or pooling resources to create your own delivery service. The food retail and hospitality industry is constantly changing and the investment into digitalizing your business is one that can reap benefits even after the pandemic.

Interview insights…

The owner of a café in downtown London stated that back in March they made the decision to create an online delivery service and that they were grateful for this because they were able to tap into this service when they reopened their business.   

Resource Links 

Programs offered through the Digital Main Street platform: 
https://news.ontario.ca/en/release/57172/ontario-and-canada-helping-small-businesses-go-digital

ShopHERE: Powered by Google:
https://programs.digitalmainstreet.ca/shophere-signup

Future Proof:
https://digitalmainstreet.ca/futureproof/  

Montreal local delivery service:
https://radish.coop/en 

Ottawa local delivery service:
https://responsiblechoice.ca/lovelocaldelivery/


Make your voice heard at https://gofresher.theheal.ca, and stay tuned in to the conversation through our social media pages (@FRESHER_Canada) and website at https://fresher.theheal.ca.