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Edmonton restaurant owner encourages people to think beyond delivery apps during COVID-19 crisis

Edmonton restaurant owner encourages people to think beyond delivery apps
WATCH ABOVE: It's a critical time to support local restaurants in Edmonton who are adapting to take-out and delivery. As Nicole Stillger explains, independent restaurant owner Paul Shufelt is encouraging people to think beyond using third-party apps like Skip the Dishes and UberEats.

The COVID-19 crisis is a critical time to support local businesses — including restaurants — in Edmonton who are adapting to just take-out and delivery.

One independent restaurant owner is encouraging people to think beyond using third-party apps.

Paul Shufelt owns Workshop Eatery on the south side near Summerside and Woodshed Burgers on 124 Street in central Edmonton. Like many others right now, he has pivoted his business model.

“We’ve been open here just shy of five years and I’ve never laid anybody off — between our two restaurants, I’ve had to lay off 40 people shortly after this started,” he said on Thursday from Workshop.

Shufelt said he has been able to bring some employees back, to take phone orders and make deliveries.

He said he wants to keep everything internal rather than going with a third-party app like Uber Eats or Skip the Dishes.

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“Most of those third-party delivery services take anywhere on the low end about 16 to 18 per cent, to the high end [at] 30 per cent plus.”

“The big players are playing in that 25 to 30 per cent range,” Shufelt explained.

READ MORE: Edmonton restaurant criticizes DoorDash delivery service for unauthorized partnership

He said a restaurant typically operates with about 30 per cent labour costs.

“You’re now giving that entire dollar value to a third-party delivery driver,” he said.

“Yes that driver needs a job as well, but you are taking that right out of people in the restaurant.”

Shufelt said it’s one thing when it’s a side part of the business, but another when take-out and delivery is all that’s left.

“[Not using third parties is] really helping not just the restaurateur, but the employees — they’re still getting some wages and finding something to do every day — and it’s important,” he said.
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In Alberta, the industry as a whole is taking a big hit.

According to a recent Restaurants Canada survey, about 95,000 restaurant jobs have been lost in the province since the beginning of March because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The company, which represents restaurants nationwide, said nearly one in five restaurants in Canada expect to close if conditions don’t get better in a month.

READ MORE: 800,000 restaurant jobs lost in Canada in March amid COVID-19: survey

Across the country, 800,000 jobs have been lost. The survey also revealed:

  • Four out of five restaurants have laid off employees since March 1.
  • Seven out of 10 restaurant owners will further cut back on staff hours or lay off more employees if conditions do not improve.
  • Nearly one out of 10 restaurants have already closed permanently and another 18 per cent will permanently close within a month if current conditions continue.

“Not only was our industry among the first to feel the impacts of COVID-19, we’ve been one of the hardest hit so far, with nearly two-thirds of our workforce now lost,” said Shanna Munro, the CEO and president of Restaurants Canada.

”In our 75 years of existence as Canada’s national food-service association, these are by far the worst numbers we have ever seen.”

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Local Edmonton restaurants and businesses worry they won’t survive COVID-10 pandemic
Local Edmonton restaurants and businesses worry they won’t survive COVID-10 pandemic

Mark Von Schellwitz, Restaurants Canada vice president for Western Canada, said once social distancing becomes a thing of the past and dine-in service can resume, he is worried about the amount of debt members will have to take on to restore cash flow.

“Given the thin margins in the industry, that would take a long time to pay that money back. So some of our members are just saying, ‘I can’t afford to do that.’ Either close or close later because of the huge amount of additional debt that will just never be able to be paid back,” he said.

“We’ve got a lot of members now scrambling to figure out how they’re going to pay their lease, never mind all of the other utilities and other bills that they have to pay as well with no income.”

READ MORE: 121K B.C. hospitality workers off the job, 28% of restaurants risk going under: survey

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At Workshop, employees just want to help wherever they can.

“If that means working overtime, if that means running back and forth [and] running to the grocery store, whatever that is, we have to do it,” Weronika Kundera said. “That’s what’s going to get us through this.”

“Who’s left employed is happy and grateful, so there’s been no complaining that’s for sure,” said managing partner Kristina Shufelt.

READ MORE: ‘What other industry would allow that?’: What it’s like to work for service apps