A social media campaign urging Manitobans to place delivery and pick-up orders directly from local restaurants amid a renewed COVID-19 lockdown is spreading to neighbouring provinces.
First started by the Manitoba Restaurant & Foodservices Association, the #saveMBrestaurants campaign recently got a boost from Winnipeg-based digital media strategist Susie Erjavec Parker, who decided to act after the province imposed further restrictions, forcing restaurants and bars to close.
“It was just one of those things where I work with a lot of restaurant owners, I do a lot of food marketing, and I thought to myself, we need to something to help these people,” explained Parker.
“I thought, OK, I’m going to amplify that hashtag and give it a real kick in the pants and get it out there.”
After first spreading the message through Facebook, Parker used her contacts to find a way to take the campaign further than social media.
A local restaurant owner who also owns a private digital billboard agreed to give up the space for free, and Parker says it “kind of snowballed from there.”
Since then, other billboard owners have agreed to lend the campaign space across Winnipeg, and the message can also be found on a billboard in Brandon now too.
“So many people are trying to support the restaurant industry by ordering and also giving themselves a break because I think we’re all pretty sick of our own cooking at this point in this pandemic,” Parker said.
“It’s really important to support local right now, whenever possible.”
This week the campaign made inroads in Ontario and Alberta too, where adopted #saveONrestaurants and #saveABrestaurants hashtags began making the rounds on social media.
Parker says she’ll gladly share the marketing material to billboard owners in other provinces too.
“I’m asking other Winnipeggers, Manitobans, and people all across Canada to come into that … to help these people survive this pandemic crisis,” she said.
“This entire industry has been called upon to make such rapid changes when these announcements come out.
“I just want to help in some small way — any way I can.”
Bars and restaurants in Winnipeg have been closed except for take-out and delivery since level red restrictions went into effect in the city at the start of the month.
A member survey by the Manitoba Restaurant and Food Services Association completed just before the forced closure found 80 per cent of local operators were already struggling with rising debt loads — in some cases, more than $40,000 of debt since the pandemic began.
On Thursday, as Manitoba health officials announced nine new deaths and 474 new COVID-19 cases, Feast Cafe Bistro owner Christa Guenther said running her well-known Winnipeg Indigenous restaurant during the pandemic has been all about flexibility, patience and prayer.
She questioned whether all restaurants needed to close, or if those breaking previous rules should have been targeted. She said the vast majority of restaurants were taking serious precautions at a significant cost.
“If people are able to go to a grocery store then they can still go to a restaurant that’s properly social-distanced,” she said.
Guenther also said for restaurants to survive, third-party delivery systems need to stop charging the establishments. Instead, she said, they need to pass the cost on to customers.
–With files from Sam Thompson and The Canadian Press
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