Photo via @nevereatwong
From the moment that Toronto’s bars and restaurants were allowed to reopen their doors, they’ve struggled with demand for patio seats. The sudden surge in foot traffic was a much-needed financial relief for businesses that were forced to shutter their entrances for months at a time in order to stop the spread of the coronavirus, which may sound like a good thing. However, the impending doom of a “second wave” has never lifted and the threat of the cold weather has foreshadowed even darker days for the hospitality industry. Mayor John Tory is looking to shut down restaurants and bars after a recent spike of COVID-19 cases in the city’s core, but Toronto isn’t the only place looking to get ahead of the next outbreak.
Once again, restaurants and bars across the country will be forced to revert back to takeout and delivery options. In order to serve customers throughout the winter, it seemed like their only choice until a band of institutions and independent brands started marching together to save the service sector.
Though according to representatives from Canada Takeout, an organization centred around a campaign that encourages Canadians to make ordering in a part of their weekly routine, that’s no longer the goal.
Founded on April 15 of this year, Canada Takeout sought after its mission by reminding Canadians to make takeout a part of their weekly meal plan through promoting self-created food holidays like Taco Tuesday. Today, the organization’s focus is installing the belief that any day can be takeout day – you can use Canada Takeout’s finder map as a resource for searching restaurants across the country, from the small cafe in your home town to fast-food chains like Burger King and Pizza Pizza.
Keeping the restaurant experience alive
A survey conducted by Restaurants Canada at the end of August revealed that more than half (63 percent) of respondents expect their sales will be lower between September and November compared to what they were in the summer months; 40 percent said they expect their sales will be a lot worse.
Food service sales in Canada could drop by nearly half in 2020, representing $44.8 billion in lost sales compared to 2019. Needless to say, preparing for this year’s slow season has businesses thinking much differently about how to provide a restaurant-like experience at-home to stay alive.
“It is time to reinvent ourselves and offer new products, services and experiences that can generate other ways of income to your business,” Jamie Gordon, bartender and director of Dante NYC’s brand development, told a Negroni Week masterclass over Zoom call.
“At Dante, we are selling candles, tote bags, hats, digital masterclasses and other products and services that people can purchase in different ways,” Gordon said. “We are lucky to have great regulars that never let us down and we are confident they will keep supporting us.”
On Dante’s website, aperitif kits, exclusive bottled Negronis and Martini Hour Cocktail packs are among the offerings described as “almost” ready to drink, their finishing touches made easy enough for the at-home bartender. Beyond doubt, Gordon agreed that making cocktailing accessible will factor into people’s support of bars throughout the colder months.
“When we put together our take-home kits we made sure that it was not only about the drink itself. Our idea is to recreate the Dante experience into people’s homes, so besides the drink we always send coasters, postcards, straws, and even Dante’s music playlists so you can really feel that you are at the bar,” said Gordon. “We also made videos for each one of the kits with our bartenders teaching how to make the drinks.”
How to support
The restaurant industry lost more jobs during the first six-week lockdown than the entire Canadian economy during the 2008-2009 recession, making one out of every five jobs lost in foodservice.
Results of the latest Labour Force Survey by Statistics Canada are devastating, showing that Canada’s foodservice sector remains 260,000 jobs short of where it was in February. In addition to the estimated 10 percent of Canadian businesses that have permanently closed, most are still losing money and expect to take at least a year to return to profitability.
This year’s Negroni Week fundraising efforts shifted accordingly, focusing solely on raising money for organizations and initiatives that are providing relief to the hospitality industry. For the first time ever, donations are being accepted from consumers through the end of this month. Besides donating to the countless hospitality workers that will benefit from the funds that Negroni Week raises, there’s a number of other ways to support restaurants, bars, the people who run them and the ones that deliver our food.
The easiest place to start? Order in this week and spread the word about your favourite establishment by using the hashtag #TakeoutDay on Instagram, check out Negroni Week’s list of fundraising partners, buy a gift card to a restaurant or bar for a loved one, or purchase a take-home kit to treat yourself to. Then, tell a friend about it.
(Story by Contributing Editor, Anastasia Barbuzzi)