Local restaurants finding silver lining in pandemic adjustments

While the restaurant industry has taken multiple hits during the pandemic, some owners say they’ve adjusted for the long game.

Italian eatery Nostra Cucina first shifted from indoor dining to curbside pickup 19 months ago, but now their whole business model has changed.

“We get people to order through text anytime,” said co-owner Dina Marsillo. “Our hours changed, we stopped working Monday, but we opened Thursday and Friday nights.”

Workers at 271West Restaurant have also shifted to keep cash coming in.

“In the time where we were up and running takeout and delivery we handled everything by ourselves,” said co-owner Zeljko Loncar. “We didn’t have any company from outside.”

The restaurant offers takeout as well, but are not back to serving indoors, while the co-owners focus on a new location to keep business going strong.

“We can give more hours to employees and that can make them full time employees with good pay who can make a living,” said Loncar.

Over at Fat Sparrow Group, they’ve started offering meal kits and virtual events.

“It really works well online,” said co-founder Nick Benninger. “People are in the safety and comfort of their homes, both from an alcohol point of view and a pandemic point of view.”

One local restaurant owner says he’s created a takeout menu that offers a discount incentive for customers who prefer to order in instead of eating indoors during limited capacity.

Incentives are also in place for some to buy directly through the restaurant rather than through third party delivery services.

“With Skip the Dishes and Uber they charge us the regular amount of 25 per cent,” said Mark Vaughan of Marks Caribbean Kitchen. “Our online order you save 10 per cent.

“All the stuff going up with gas, meat, and stuff going up, so we had to raise it a little bit.”

Restaurant Canada says wages are increasing in some business and owners are exploring benefit options that will hopefully remain in place post-pandemic.