Local restaurant directories are making the New Year’s push


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This article has been published 12/31/2020 (309 days ago), the information it contains may therefore no longer be up to date.

A bartender prepares a drink at a restaurant during the COVID-19 pandemic in Mississauga, Ont. On Friday, October 9, 2020. As the COVID-19 pandemic limits New Year’s pub crawls, restaurants are regrouping online in the hopes that the Christmas “local store” mentality may save a once-lucrative vacation. THE CANADIAN PRESS / Nathan Denette

Toronto restaurateur Erik Joyal knew his restaurants should be doing something different this New Years Eve as the COVID-19 pandemic wrecked everyone’s party plans.

Seeing his fellow restaurateurs promoting fixed price party boxes, meal kits, champagne flutes and other creative New Year’s celebrations, he decided to help organize an online show to increase visibility. independent small business owners.

“I own three restaurants, a bar and a catering business. And so we thought, what are we going to do? said Joyal. “And then it kind of turned into” Well, maybe we should be thinking on a higher level – with all the restaurants. ”

As the COVID-19 pandemic limits New Year’s Eve festivities, restaurants are regrouping online in hopes that a “local store” mentality can save the once-lucrative vacation for restaurants.

An online event, Save Hospitality’s NYE ​​2021 Big Night In, has built a database of about two hundred restaurants across the country. The event website has at least a list of local restaurants in each province and territory.

A $ 19.95 ticket to the event gives buyers access to an 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. online feed of concerts by Canadian musicians. Joyal says virtual attendees allocate $ 5 from each ticket to a participating restaurant of their choice, which does not have to pay to be listed on the event’s website and can also get additional donations through the sale of tickets.

Prior to COVID-19, regional food and events blogs posted lists of New Years Eve events in their area, but there had never been much of a national restaurant alliance around the party, said Joyal.

But since the start of the pandemic, several groups of former restaurant rivals have banded together for events like Canada Takeout Day. Some towns, like Vaughan, Ontario, even have government-run directories for local diners.

Toronto entrepreneur Robert Frier launched his online directory of local restaurants, EatingYYZ, after the pandemic blew up his businesses at street fairs and casinos.

Websites like Eating YYZ and Save Hospitality are coming as other organizers across the country have launched similar campaigns in other industries. Not-Amazon.ca, a list of local retailers, has grown in popularity during the holiday season.

As the shopping rush comes to an end for these retailers, restaurants have yet to recoup the sorely missed revenue from the New Year’s pub crawl shortage this year – a year in which Restaurants Canada estimates 188,000 restaurant jobs. were lost.

An online survey of 1,091 adults by the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario estimates that New Years Eve spending will drop to about $ 170 per person in Ontario this year, down from the previous year. previous year’s average of $ 366.

By generally accepted survey industry standards, online surveys cannot be given a margin of error because they are not a random sample of the population.

Restaurants in British Columbia that have already stocked their food and booze for New Years Eve received bad news from the provincial government on Wednesday that they had to stop selling alcohol at 8 p.m.

While retailers and restaurants have had to move online during the COVID-19 pandemic, Joyal says consumers may not be aware that restaurants face different challenges than retailers when they are. it is about delivering products purchased online.

“We take care of the perishable goods,” says Joyal. “We can’t just call Canada Post and ask people to ship sandwiches beyond a certain radius. Traditional delivery apps are quite expensive. ”

Centralized delivery apps like Uber Eats, DoorDash, and SkipTheDishes have become the go-to local rate databases due to restaurant dining restrictions. It can be difficult for a restaurant to capture customers online when diners are looking to browse a long list rather than looking for a location nearby, notes Amina Gilani, co-founder of Sociavore Inc ..

The Gilani’s Kitchener, Ontario-based company is creating software that allows restaurants to place their own online orders and gift cards. She says Sociavore’s customer base has tripled during the pandemic as restaurants create their own online ordering systems – sometimes as alternatives to large apps.

“Delivery networks existed before Uber and before DoorDash. So when we talk to restaurants across Canada and the United States, a lot of them use them and keep them really local, ”says Gilani.

“With restaurants, you sort of take care of a specific place or neighborhood, as opposed to if you’re a retailer and you can have a list and then ship the product anywhere.”

Frier quietly built the Eating YYZ directory, adding 10-20 ads per day to his site. But even with over 100 restaurants listed, many categories on its website remain blank as Frier says chefs nearby are struggling to meet the new demand for online ordering options.

He says he’s seen a growing number of people share social media posts saying “Remove SkipTheDishes” – although he says ordering through app-based deliveries is better for businesses than ordering nothing from the. all.

Apps have also faced a backlash from restaurant owners due to the high fees they charge and delivery issues that anger customers. On December 19, Ontario began capping shipping costs at 15% to help support local businesses. And on December 6, SkiptheDishes agreed to suspend its partnership with the Liquor Control Board of Ontario after critics said local restaurants should be given priority.

Raymond Costain says apps like Uber Eats help keep orders for his restaurant Dope as Duck. With COVID-19, he can’t have a crowd inside, doesn’t have a lot of foot traffic nearby, and can’t afford to hire his own delivery person.

But Costain also put a list on the Eating YYZ database last month, drawn to its content that interviews and connects local chefs.

“Instead of being an individual trying to get the word out, it’s good to have a community where everyone can connect,” said Costain.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on December 31, 2020.


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