Restaurants in Crisis

I hate to say it, but the Canadian restaurant industry is in really serious trouble.

The current global pandemic is wreaking havoc on the restaurant business – in particular, family operated and independent restaurants. These smaller establishments are at high risk of going out of business during this pandemic – and quite possibly not returning once the pandemic ends.

I’ve already read that 10% of independent restaurants have decided to close and will not be reopening.

This means that those little gems we love so much, the Blacksmith Bakery, Bishops, that little pho shop, the sandwich shop, or that quirky breakfast place may not be back when the world bounces back from this pandemic and the economic shut down that has come from it.

While corporate owned chain restaurants are also suffering in this pandemic, in the long run, they’ll be okay. Sure, the corporate profits will be down, shareholders will not get their fat returns, and share price may drop – significantly.

But when the world “opens up to business” again, the corporate owned restaurants like McDs, Burger King, Wendy’s, and Triple O’s will return.

However, the independent restaurants – the family owned and operated places, the greasy spoon diners to the very well known places like Bishops on 4th – these places are at risk of not reopening.

Often these small independent places do not own their premises so they are required to continue paying rent. The building owners do have costs to pay so you can’t fault them for requiring rent be paid.

But if a restaurant has no income – how can they pay their rent?

There has been talk about encouraging people to buy gift cards for the restaurants they like. However, that comes with risk for the gift card purchaser and the restaurant owner.

First off, the independent restaurants may not reopen after the pandemic ends – however long that will take. So now you’ve bought a gift card for a place that is closed. That bites.

On the other hand, say the restaurant survives the shutdown and reopens after the pandemic ends. Now they need to completely restock their kitchen – a pretty massive investment in itself. And the restocking will need to be done with very little cash flow as people return to the restaurant excited to welcome them back – while trying to use those gift cards that they purchased. Ouch.

While there are higher level discussions being held about how to “save” or support the restaurant business, there are some things you – and all of us – can do – if you value the cultural diversity of our restaurant scene.

First thing, find out if your local independent restaurant is doing takeout. If they are, ORDER SOME TAKEOUT!

Second thing you can do – order takeout directly from the restaurant if at all possible.

You probably don’t know this but food ordering apps such as Uber Eats and Skip the Dishes – large corporations with questionable employee relations of their own to deal with – take a cut of the profits from food orders from restaurants making it tough to make enough money to stay open while restaurants are only doing takeout.

Fact – all those soft drinks, glasses of wine, and beer are a real boost to the bottom line of restaurants. Having no dine-in diners means people are choosing to drink their own plonk at home.

So if you want to support your local independent restaurant, order directly from the restaurant whenever you can. Yes, that means you will probably have to leave your house to go pick up the food yourself, but that also means one less person handling your food.

Bottom line, pay attention to what your local, independent, family owned and operated restaurants are saying. If they’re open for takeout, if you want them to survive, you better support them now, in their time of need. If we don’t, after this pandemic is over, it is quite possible that our decision will have been made for us.

I choose to support my independent restaurants. Besides, ordering takeout is one less meal for me to cook!