The road to recovery in British Columbia: restaurant reopening could start in May

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BEFORE CHRIST. restaurants may be allowed to open their dining rooms as early as next month, although the provincial government has made it clear that any relaxed restrictions will come from provincial health worker Bonnie Henry.

When it makes orders to relax the restrictions, it will partly respond to the recommendations that the industry has drafted and provided to the government.

Henry said on April 20 that he wants to work with industry to find “innovative ways to provide restaurant meals that protect both staff and those entering.”

Customers may need to collect their food from an area of ​​the restaurant that is behind a Plexiglass shield, suggested Ian Tostenson, CEO of the BC Restaurant & Foodservices Association.

The hand sanitizer will almost certainly be at the entrance, and customers and employees may need to have a temperature check before entering the premises.

If the bistro has servers, they may be required to wear masks and gloves. There will almost certainly be a limit to the density within the restaurant – perhaps halving the number of seats it is allowed to serve.

Whatever proportion is necessary to maintain physical distance, said Tostenson, a restaurant should also be allowed to remain viable.

Tostenson went into action when he learned that Henry wanted to work with the industry to find directions on how to open the dining rooms. He has put together a “team” of hotel industry leaders to develop a plan on how to operate safely and profitably.

He then held a conference call on April 22 with dozens of industry insiders from companies such as the Glowbal Group, Earls, Cactus Club and Starbucks (Nasdaq: SBUX). Unions were also represented.

“I would love to see this industry develop standards so ambitious that we become a model, with Dr. Henry, for North America,” he said. “They can point the finger at British Columbia. and say, “You know, what these guys up there did well. »»

On March 20, Henry ordered a halt to all restaurant services in restaurants across the province – a blow to many in the industry.

Some have moved to take-out delivery only or have started, but even with these interim measures, many have wondered how long their businesses could survive.

“We’re going to do it so strictly from a safety standpoint, but we’re going to have fun doing it from a hospitality standpoint,” said Tostenson.

Tap and Barrel Restaurants Group CEO Daniel Frankel – one of the Tostenson group’s restaurant owners – had to fire about 600 hourly workers at its six restaurants. He ends up with 100 employees.

“The key is to eliminate as many touch points as possible,” said Frankel.

For example, he said that instead of leaving cutlery on tables, waiters will likely have to take out fresh utensils after customers arrive.

Some Frankel restaurants are licensed to serve hundreds of people, and a large portion of the seating for them is outside. He said it might make sense to have a different maximum allowable density outdoors because Henry has repeatedly said that COVID-19 transmission is much easier indoors.

Gaining public trust is as important as convincing Henry to loosen the restrictions.

Angus Reid poll released April 20 found that 60% of Canadians said they would wait at least until their province was gone two weeks before discovering a new COVID-19 case before returning to routines pre-pandemic.

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