Tomorrow is Canada Day to go. Please, if you care about the health of the nation and the restaurant industry it claims to save, avoid participating in this well-intentioned but daring initiative that encourages Canadians to order meals from deliver or take away “en masse” this Wednesday and every Wednesday – until life returns to normal.
Life will not return to normal anytime soon. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says normalcy will not return until a vaccine for COVID-19 is found, which he says could last six to 18 months last week.
Takeout and restaurant delivery have been declared an essential service, but most restaurants offering takeout do so out of desperation because they have no other choice. Takeout is not sustainable for most restaurants. And without additional emergency measures for small businesses, this will not be enough to save the restaurant industry.
Whatever the good intention, a large-scale celebration that puts undue pressure on these fragile food operations is a recipe for disaster.
How does going out “en masse”, around the time when COVID-19 infection rates are about to start peaking in several provinces, does it meet public health guidelines to stay at the House?
To make matters worse, Takeout Day isn’t just about getting hordes of Canadians to eat out or calling same day delivery. It’s actually asking everyone to do it at the same time.
Why? So we can all relax on the couch, dig in and watch the home edition of the Great Kitchen Party in Canada. This virtual concert, featuring Jim Cuddy, Alan Doyle, Ed Robertson, Barney Bentall and Tom Cochrane, will begin live streaming on Facebook at 8:00 p.m. EST.
“I envisioned it as a variety show, like it used to be, when we were all sitting around the television together, watching and eating our dinner,” says Branding & Buzzing president Sean Beckingham, whose rallying cry is supported by dozens of food suppliers, renowned chefs and hotel associations, including Restaurants Canada.
Take-out in restaurants is a huge conundrum to which there are no easy answers.
Take-out is essential if it relieves pressure on other food services. According to a survey by Angus Reid last week, 52% of Canadians intend to avoid going to grocery stores, which are seen as unsafe to visit.
Take-out meals can and help fill this gap. Since being ordered to close their restaurants, more and more restaurants have added frozen food, fresh produce and pantry items to their delivery and takeout options. Not only to increase sales and recover the cost of inventory (most restaurants have already passed through their warehouse stores), but also to support farmers, fishermen and small food suppliers who are also affected by the drop in sales.
There are also many restaurants that feed frontline workers, food banks and unemployed restaurant staff.
“We’re very positive about all of this,” said JP Potters, general manager of Boulevard Kitchen + Oyster Bar in Vancouver at the Sutton Place Hotel, which sells ready-to-freeze packaging, heated and eaten sealed plastic dishes. , wine by the bottle and happy hour cocktail kits as well as $ 5 meal cards for the food bank and unemployed staff at other restaurants.
“We are breaking even. This allowed us to bring back two or three sous-chefs. This justifies keeping the restaurant open. And when Boulevard reopens, we see this as a new long-term business opportunity. “
Boulevard is, however, in the privileged position of being owned by its owner, Northland Properties. They don’t have to pay rent.
Takeout is much less profitable when you use delivery apps such as Foodora, DoorDash or Uber Eats, which take a 20-30% commission to restaurants – not to mention the delivery charges to consumers.
There are currently cooperative systems in development that are trying to reduce these costs and stem the bleeding. But they are not there yet.
Without additional support for small businesses – rent relief, a ban on evictions, lowering interest rates for credit cards – it will not be enough to save most restaurants, which already operate at zero margins and cannot allow more debt.
Security is an issue that has not been well addressed. The BC Center for Disease Control has been slow to issue safety guidelines to support this essential service. As of this week, guidelines for take-out food companies do not recognize that masks must be worn to reduce the risk of spreading the virus – which is not in line with federal guidelines. He also recognized that “physical remoteness in busy work environments, such as kitchens, can be difficult.”
David McMillan, partner of the Joe Beef restaurant group in Montreal, tried to offer meal kits. “But then every media and ding dong on social media started to write about what we were doing,” said McMillan, also the author of the now best-selling and aptly named cookbook, Surviving the apocalypse.
“The next thing we knew, we had 10 people in the dining room packing the boxes and 20 people squeezed into small kitchens. I watched the guy slice the tomatoes and I thought, I don’t know this guy well. I don’t know where he went last night. I have spent my entire career trying to stuff people’s bodies with the healthiest organic food and wine. It does not seem comfortable to me. “