Take-out and deliveries are among the few ways Manitoba restaurants can operate during the COVID-19 pandemic. Under a public health order, restaurants are only allowed to open to offer take-out or delivery services.
Some Winnipeggers say that they have eaten meals whenever they can.
“We have such a wide variety and depth of restaurants in this city and many of them are local,” said Luba Bereza, who works in the Stock Exchange district.
“I walked away from my desk to see who was still open, and I was happy to see that Chosabi was still offering take-out service. “
Chosabi – which has five branches in Winnipeg, including one in the Stock Exchange district on King Street – is happy for the business. But its owner says that staying open during the crisis has been a lot of work, much less to return.
“We currently carry out 5% of our usual activities,” explains owner Cho Venevongsa.
“Five percent. Is that crazy? “
Venevongsa has several other restaurants in the city, including the famous sushi food Wasabi, and its more recently introduced ramen shop, Cho Ichi.
It has closed almost half of its premises since the start of the pandemic and has laid off 90% of its employees.
“We’ve been in business for about 21 years, and some of these guys have been with us almost since day one,” said Venevongsa, his cheerful tone becoming darker.
“Two weeks ago, I had to announce that we couldn’t keep them. It was quite difficult. “
He says his wife and four children introduce themselves, prepare orders and answer calls. But it was a struggle. He fears that three of his restaurants will never reopen.
“It’s my business and I like what I do,” says the restaurateur. “I also love my people, and they all rely on me. So I have to, you know, get out of my bed and stay positive and keep going. ”
Other restaurants in Winnipeg are also consolidating their locations and significantly reducing operating hours.
Industry experts say adapting to the new reality will help them survive, while developing creative ways to make sales.
“Like delivering groceries, taking out and cooking, or providing meal kits and stuff like that,” said Shaun Jeffrey, executive director of the Manitoba Restaurant and Foodservices Association.
“Restaurants that took advantage of [those revenue streams] meet a little early. ”
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Jeffrey also said that restaurants already had delivery and delivery options before the pandemic. He says others are now scrambling to put these systems in place as the market becomes more and more saturated.
Another major hurdle, according to Jeffrey, is that the biggest attraction of restaurants is the dining experience – something that customers can no longer do.
“Enjoy an evening with family and friends, be a foodie and discover new types of food – that’s it. “
Jeffrey says at least 10 percent of restaurants in Manitoba have decided that delivery is not an option for them, and that they are in the process of closing.
This includes some of the city’s upscale restaurants and shops, such as Clementine, Segovia, and Peasant (though the latter offers a limited menu through delivery options and grocery delivery via its Peasant Pantry service).
“The delivery and delivery options just aren’t the same, but this is our only opportunity to help smooth the curve,” said Jeffrey.
“So if you can support a restaurant, don’t hesitate. We want to be there for this experience in the future. “
The Manitoba Restaurants and Foodservices Association has also asked the province for help. He says the industry will need government help to keep Winnipeg’s vibrant food culture alive.
Meanwhile, Canada’s Take-Out Food Day campaign encourages Canadians to maintain local restaurants by showing their support with an order for take-out every Wednesday during the pandemic.