'We are going to have to change our entire industry': Saskatoon restaurants adapt through COVID-19 pandemic
SASKATOON -- Restaurant owner Roxy Taschuk wasn’t optimistic about the state of her industry when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
“I thought ‘There’s no way that any restaurant’s going to survive this,’” said Taschuk, who owns Haywoods Grill in Saskatoon.
Her business has evolved, moving to takeout orders and deliveries, and a small “grocery store” that’s taken over the now defunct bar.
“You can phone in or you can email an order,” she said. “I have a little freezer in my bar section because we don’t use the bar at all. I have meat and stuff in there for the groceries, and then all the canned goods and toiletries and stuff like that.”
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Taschuk says it’s just her and one other cook in the kitchen, and it isn’t too hard to practice physical distancing. Belle Maynes is Haywoods Grill’s unofficial Physical Distancing Monitor for customers and delivery drivers.
“As soon as they come near the door, she makes them go to certain spots to keep them all six feet apart,” said Taschuk. “She’s disinfecting the handle as soon as they touch it, the debit machines before and after each use. She keeps everybody six feet apart and throws them in their corners, and if there’s too many people, she makes them wait outside.”
Thayne Robstad, who owns Hearth Restaurant in Saskatoon, said the restaurant isn’t thriving like it would in a normal world.
“But I feel that with the changes we’ve made, we’re in a good holding pattern. Our business model in the pre-COVID times was to get as many people as we could in here over the course of a night,” Robstad said, adding that there would be up to six or seven people in the kitchen every night.
Now they’re down to just two people in the kitchen, making food for curb-side pickups, deliveries, and large batch heat-and-eat products.
“We’ve altered our menu to allow it to be executable by fewer people, and obviously massively updated our cleaning policies and regiment,” he said.
Restaurants in Saskatchewan will be able to reopen their doors as part of Phase Three of the province’s reopening plan. Taschuk and Robstad know things will look different and the confidence of people to come back will be affected.
“I’m kind of scared, because it’s going to be a whole new practice,” said Taschuk. “How do you serve a table keeping your social distance? Once we know what we we can work with I guess then we can try to figure it out, but how do you serve a table from six feet away? It’s really hard.”
“It’ll be the challenge for the next several years, I really believe that,” said Robstad. “Because it’s not going to the same. A public who’s not as sure, stay away. I still believe there will be people in here that are gung-ho, but we are going to have to change our entire industry.”