Monday, November 30, 2020
Business

Kitchen existential: How restaurants are getting innovative to survive pandemic

Craig Wong, chef and owner of Patois, partnered with Loblaw Cos. Inc.’s PC Chef restaurant meal kit delivery program, a home delivery service curated by the giant grocer.
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David Hopkins, president of The 15 Group, a Toronto-based hospitality consulting agency, said he’s seen restaurants of all sizes and cuisines now offering a retail component of some sort.

Being able to diversify at a time like this has shown we can keep going and keep our team employed

Shaun Edmonstone, Bruce Wine Bar

“So many are doing horribly, because inside dining is gone,” he said. “Revenues are down anywhere from 20 to 60 per cent. Some are so drastic they haven’t reopened, because it makes no sense.”

Others are embracing the opportunity to do something different.

The Mad Mexican restaurant in Toronto converted a secondary dining area into a retail market soon after the initial shutdown. The market sells everything from taco ingredients and tortillas to desserts and ready-to-eat meals, with more items added each week.

It wasn’t particularly unusual for the company to change tactics, chief executive Jose Hadad said, since Mad Mexican started out as a wholesale operation in 2005, before adding a restaurant component in 2017.

Mad Mexican chief executive Jose Hadad. The restaurant in Toronto converted a secondary dining area into a retail market soon after the initial shutdown. Photo by Mad Mexican

“We’re small and nimble, so can always change gears when we need to,” he said.

Hadad had wanted to offer a Mexican food market for years, so the restaurant’s enforced closure was a chance to bring the idea to life.

“Over 90 per cent of revenues for the restaurant came from in-room dining,” he said. “We decided to rework everything when the shutdown happened.”

Between takeout and the market, the restaurant has managed to generate 40 per cent of its pre-pandemic sales, Hadad said, adding that revenues are also bolstered by its wholesale division. “Nothing has interrupted growth on that side.”



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