People opting for local food during COVID-19, Saskatoon restaurant owner says
SASKATOON -- Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, more people have been opting to eat local and in turn feed the local economy, according to a Saskatoon chef and restaurant owner.
“People have taken notice of where their food is coming from because of the pandemic and I think people are really wondering how to support local, how to eat local,” said Christie Peters, chef and owner of Primal Pasta.
Her restaurant focuses on farm to table food and makes all of its pasta in-house using heritage grains grown in Saskatchewan. Peters said they also do whole animal butchery, meaning they use every part of the animal and don’t let any of it go to waste.
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Primal also has a horticulturist on staff who helps them grow fresh vegetables and produce.
She said she’s seen a mix of new guests since opening back up.
“I think a lot of people are growing gardens this year that didn’t before and they’re really appreciating that fresh garden produce. So I think it’s been really good for the restaurant and really good for the awareness of local food,” Peters told CTV News.
Tyler Case, an assistant professor at the Edwards School of Business at the University of Saskatchewan, said the trend of eating and supporting local started before the pandemic hit and has continued.
He said we’re beginning to see large national and international chain restaurants slowing in terms of growth while local, independent restaurants are growing.
“We know that consumers are recognizing that local food production is important to them and independent restaurants are able to offer something that’s unique, and a bit of an experience and community-minded, and you see owner-operators or owners who are managing the restaurant, and all of those contribute to something that’s unique or an experience that consumers like to share.”
Case said investing in local restaurants has an impact across local communities and on the local economy.
He added that while local and independent restaurants are often small and not as well-marketed as chains, they are often able to adapt to changes in the marketplace quickly — like shifting to delivery and takeout, and implementing physical distancing in the restaurants.
This comes as American restaurant chain The Olive Garden opened its first location in Saskatoon on Monday with health and safety measures in place.
Meagan Bernstein, a spokesperson for the restaurant, said this new location brings about 100 new jobs to the community.
The Olive Garden is known for its large variety of Italian food and classic breadsticks.
The restaurant did not comment further on how its first couple of days have been going or what it’s doing to stay competitive with local restaurants.
When the announcement was first made that Olive Garden was coming to Saskatoon, many expressed their excitement on social media.
Peters said she believes there needs to be a balance between local and chain restaurants.
“There’s room for both and both are necessary in this world too. Chains aren’t necessarily evil but it’s super good to support your local guy because the chains do have a lot more buying power than we do.”
She urges people to continue educating themselves on where their food comes from and to choose local.