The COVID-19 pandemic has created a lot of new norms. Frequent handwashing, mask-wearing and physical distancing are now all part of everyday life, but there's another aspect of life many people have adopted as standard practice: takeout.
That's why CTV News Edmonton decided to take a look at how two local restaurants have been making the most of the current reality.
Dan Cote-Rosen launched a new business late last month.
Flat Boy Burgers opened on Edmonton's south side without much fanfare, but owner Cote-Rosen says so far the response has been good.
“I think one of the things we’re really lucky about is the fact that we’re doing this in Edmonton. Every time we go to run an order out to someone’s car they’re really encouraging," he told CTV News Edmonton. “The feedback we’ve been getting on social media, especially our Instagram page has been overwhelming.”
It was an idea that came to Cote-Rosen in late November.
"In the middle of a pandemic, you know heading into an Edmonton winter, which is not the ideal time to start a business.”
But he and his partner found a kitchen to rent that worked for their model and went from there. No tables, no chairs — just takeout and delivery.
“I was really looking for a model that would be kind of copacetic with the pandemic, but also not create a lot of overhead for us — not knowing how successful it was going to be,” said Cote-Rosen.
Cote-Rosen partially credits the pandemic for the 60-day turnaround from inception to launch.
“To be standing here now is pretty wild,” he said from his kitchen. "We were able to get a really quick response from AHS to receive our food-handling permit.”
The Flat Burger Boy owner says while takeout dining seems to be a good model during a pandemic, it does come with added pressure.
“A lot of restaurants have the opportunity, especially during non-pandemic times, where as soon as someone walks in the door they’re getting the atmosphere the restaurant has created with the decor, with the host or hostess,” he said. "For us it’s gotta strictly be about the food."
“Our food has to make a really big impression on them because we don’t have an interior space to do that for us.”
All orders go through their website (link www.flatboyburgers.com ). Right now they're only open Saturdays through Sundays.
Joe Parrottino pivoted his pizzeria from dine-in to takeout back in November 2019. A time when Edmontonians were unaware that a highly contagious coronavirus would eventually be heading their way.
"We felt that the economy was tightening up in Alberta and we felt that people didn’t have the disposable income to go out as much.”
Of course, as it turned out, people would soon have another reason to avoid the dine-in experience.
“We always thought that pizza was a more simple product and a product that people really enjoyed in a more casual way,” Parrottino told CTV News Edmonton. “We wanted to eliminate the boujee or the kind of experience-based kind of provision of pizza.”
“The pandemic did drive people’s dining experience to more of a takeout model.”
During the transition, Sepp's Pizza moved to a New York-style pizza from a traditional Neapolitan pizza.
"It’s to sort of have a product that can hold better for transportation and for delivery,” Parrottino said. “That kind of crunchy, simple, fun kind of product - we think it’s the more enjoyable product.”
Parrottino says the transition to takeout was already going well, but the COVID-19 pandemic gave his business an extra bump.
"Once the pandemic hit and people were isolated and forced indoors, I think there was an opportunity for people to get greater exposure to our product.”
The Sepp's Pizza owner says all restauranteurs would be wise to offer a takeout option.
"If they haven’t developed a takeout program, I think this has been a great opportunity for them to do that.”
'EXPLOSION OF TAKEOUT AND DELIVERY': RESTAURANTS CANADA
Mark von Schellwitz, vice president for Restaurants Canada in Western Canada, told CTV News Edmonton that the trend for more takeout and delivery had already started before COVID-19.
"But certainly since COVID we've seen an explosion of takeout and delivery."
He says in the last year delivery in the fast food segment has doubled, full service restaurants' delivery has tripled and on premise dining has declined substantially.
Meanwhile, von Shellwitz says ghost kitchens – commercial kitchens designed for takeout and delivery only, are becoming more and more common.
"Going forward I think takeout and delivery is going to be a much more important component of the sales mix of a restaurant and I think that's going to continue even after the pandemic."
That said, von Shellwitz believes takeout and delivery will never fully replace the dine-in experience.
"Restaurants are key parts of every community. It's where people congregate, it's for all sorts of celebrations, business meetings, family gatherings," he said. "I think there's always going to be a need for those on premise restaurant."
The Restaurants Canada official says on average 80 per cent of Canadian sit-down restaurants' business comes from the dine-in experience and margins for takeout and delivery for those establishments are quite thin.
"That's part of the reason why we've been asking for these third-party delivery caps," said von Schellwitz.