On the End of Foodora and the Race to Reopen a Broken Restaurant Industry

The Intelligence Brief is our weekly compendium of food and drink news sourced from outlets all over the world, including right here at home.

As we enter week six of lockdown, the provincial Covid-19 numbers continue to be mixed with spikes and valleys (95 new cases announced on Saturday). Despite the ups and downs, the province is beginning to engage in conversations about what it may look like to start to ease restrictions. We continue to cover how the pandemic is affecting the hospitality industry both at home and abroad…

Some recent cause for concern in the food industry: newly identified community-based outbreaks in the province have included two poultry processing plants in the Lower Mainland.

The news links back to larger issues among meat processing plants where outbreaks have been prevalent and protection for workers is lacking.

Foodora has announced its impending closure in Canada:

Today, foodora Inc. in Canada (subsidiary of Delivery Hero SE) announced a plan to close its business after five years of operation. Canada is a highly saturated market for online food delivery and has lately seen intensified competition. foodora has unfortunately not been able to reach a strong leadership position, and has been unable to reach a level of profitability in Canada that’s sustainable enough to continue operations.

We are also starting to see impacts on national food supply chains as Agriculture and Agri-food Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau warns of potential for higher prices and shortages on specific products.

Last week it was announced that the BC Restaurant and Food Services Association has been tasked with developing a plan for re-openings across the province.

“The group is evaluating best practices for a first stage of reopening, with stepped adherence to physical distancing protocols that could be lessened with time. Operators will be working together to set standards that they can all adhere to for the safety of their customers and teams.”

And while the news of potential re-openings brings some hope, there is also an awareness of the precariousness of the industry as a whole should future closures become necessary.

As we begin to explore what reopening might look like, this study out of China on spread of infection and airflow in restaurants may help to inform some of our decisions.

Meanwhile south of the border, some states are taking a less measured approach to re-opening their bars and restaurants.

While you would hope that the allocation of support funds for independent restaurants in the US would be streamlined, the process has been anything but as evidenced by some very flawed decision making from the top (surprise, surprise).

“An early draft of the CARES act, which established PPP, would have limited funding to hotel and restaurant groups with 500 or fewer employees total — but it was later amended to allow for larger restaurants to apply, provided they didn’t employ more than 500 workers at any given location.”

As big-name chefs continue to lament the difficulties of the current pandemic, chef Eric Rivera argues that more needs to be done for their laid-off employees.

“For these big names with industry muscle, the first step should have been to lead the charge in taking care of their employees, not just by offering links to unemployment sites, but by making sure they didn’t stretch themselves so thin when they opened new restaurants every year and conducted $10 million renovations. They could have had a better plan than to use unemployment as a safety net for the employees who bent over backward to push their names and brands forward.”

BC brewers and distillers join forces to encourage residents to support their local beverage producers with the Time To Buy BC campaign.

Farmers across the country are finding creative ways to get their products into the hands of consumers that would normally find them at local markets.

And speaking of farmers markets, Vancouver’s local spring markets will begin to open this weekend albeit with some major changes.

If you’re having a hard time finding certain ingredients, it might be worth checking out a few spots outside of your typical grocery store.

Scout’s tour of the best comfort food in town continues and fortunately, this week’s edition is available for delivery!

And speaking of delivery, be sure to check out the ever-growing list of restaurants around town that continue to offer take-out and delivery services through the pandemic.

This week in ways to kill time while staying home: why not consider building historical monuments out of food!

It also seems like an opportune time to start your own home garden. Here’s how!

And finally, a reminder that there are still substantial ways you can help the hospitality community through this crisis. These are people that can’t work from home. They are hourly wage earners who often have fewer extended benefits and paid sick time. If you’re looking for ways for ways to support our local hospitality industry and employees:

– Purchase gift cards to use at a later date.

– Participate in Canada Takeout Day and order from one of your favourite local restaurants.

– Support your local small grocers and independent food stores.

– Order food for pick-up or for delivery (keeping social distance during pick-up).

– Make sure to tip your delivery person well (in many ways, they are on the front lines).

– Support your local food bank. This pandemic is increasing the number of people facing food insecurity. They ask that you prioritize financial donations over food so as these can be made online.

– Engage with local restaurants, bars and cafes on social media. Share photos and leave words of encouragement and support.

– If you do need to go grocery shopping, consider supporting a local small business (they’re also often less busy than the larger grocery stores and have more supplies in stock).

– Buy restaurant/bar merchandise online if available (ie: t-shirts, hats, tote bags). Helen Rosner has compiled a list of great F&B merch on her IG Stories.

– If you have private events booked at any local bars/restaurants, consider postponing rather than canceling.

– Check in with your friends who are bartenders, servers, dishwashers, cooks, etc. and ask them how you can best support them through this.

Most importantly, stay safe and take care of each other. We will get through this!

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