On Getting Ready to Reopen Restaurants and the Long, Hard Road Ahead

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

This past week came with an announcement from Premier Horgan on plans for a gradual reopening of the province. While the news was welcomed, it also raised many questions for the restaurant industry around how to maintain safety for staff and patrons. As we wait to see what the industry will look like with this new easing of restrictions, we continue to cover how the pandemic is affecting the hospitality industry both at home and abroad…

As we begin to imagine and plan for what reopening might look like, it’s helpful to look back on the past 2 months and process how we got here.

While restaurants could resume dine-in service as early as June 1st, plans depend largely on how they can meet required changes to comply with provincial guidelines.

Reopening also raises questions of costs as restaurants attempt to replace perishable food items after 2 months of little-to-no income.

As such, the coming weeks will likely come with more news of permanent closures around the city. (See Rangoli, Royal Dinette, and the Commercial Drive location of Storm Crow.

Despite difficult times, restaurants are still managing to open, including Gastown’s newest burger joint.

In some more hopeful news, the city is finally reconsidering its patio laws in order to help restaurants recover and abide by new guidelines.

Perhaps we will follow in the tracks of Lithuania where their capital city is already testing out outdoor cafes in the wake of six weeks of shutdowns. Said one restaurateur: “The plan, of course, is brilliant. We are listening to the government’s guidance; we are keeping the distance between the tables; staff are wearing masks and gloves and using sanitizers.”

And speaking of loosening restrictions, let us hope that whatever gains we make with regard to to-go cocktails continues long after this pandemic is over.

Imagining possibilities for the future of our local restaurants also means drawing upon existing models for socially distanced dining options.

Meanwhile, Chef Tom Colicchio shares what he thinks restaurants will need in order to bounce back.

Down in Australia (and just like here) chefs and restaurateurs are wondering whether or not it’s even worth it to reopen with so many rules limiting the number of guests allowable inside dining rooms at the same time.

In the UK, it looks like restaurant dining rooms are going to have to remain shuttered until July 4th, at the very earliest.

Since most delivery apps are looking to cash in on the pandemic to the detriment of restaurant bottom lines, some cities are looking to cap the astronomical fees they charge:

City councils in New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles and Boston are considering commission caps as low as 5 percent. Washington, D.C., Seattle and San Francisco already adopted emergency orders that limit commissions to 15 percent. The delivery companies say these caps hamper their ability to offer deliveries and some have cut service or threatened litigation.

Beyond the restaurant industry, we’re starting to gain a better understanding of the ramifications of Covid-19 for our national food chain.

If you want further information on the impacts of the outbreak on local food producers, check out On The Coast’s week-long series Growing Pains, which runs from May 11-15.

From servers in masks to higher prices on menus, the folks at The Takeout make some predictions on how restaurants will change in the wake of the pandemic.

As we grapple with our own reopenings, several states across the US have seen restaurants open their doors to the public with restrictions varying from coast to coast.

For an example of how to do it wrong, C&C in Colorado packed in 500 people on Mother’s Day in defiance of the Governor’s stay-at-home orders. It’s almost as if they don’t quite understand how infectious disease works…

“I’m healthy,” one diner told the reporter. “I’m in good shape, and I don’t think it’s as serious as they say.”

Tagging President Donald Trump on Twitter, the restaurant said in a tweet Saturday that it was ‘standing for America, small businesses, the Constitution and against the overreach of our governor in Colorado!!’

“Attention!” read a sign on C&C’s front window. “Our freedom doesn’t end where your fear begins. If you are scared stay at home! If you are afraid to be within 6ft of another person do not enter this business!”

And while reopenings raise difficult questions for the industry as a whole, Eater explores how these challenges will disproportionately affect immigrant-owned restaurants.

Despite the fact that we’re unable to sidle up to our favourite local haunts, bartenders around town are still creating spring-inspired cocktails for a good cause.

How lucky we are that so many of the city’s best comfort foods are still available for takeout including Como Taperia’s beloved Bikini Sandwich.

Finally, while this week’s news brought a sense of hope, it will still take time for our local bars and restaurants to settle into a new normal. Here’s some ongoing ways to support the industry as they find their footing in the coming weeks and months:

– 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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