Two independent Edmonton restaurants say they’re feeling better prepared heading into a second closure, as Alberta’s COVID-19 public health restrictions take effect this weekend, than they did in the spring.
However, they’ll still need support to get through the holidays.
The Highlevel Diner was forced to make big changes when Alberta locked down at the start of the pandemic.
“We had mostly dine in at that time and we had to find our footing real fast. It was a bit of a struggle to do that,” co-owner Adam Stokyo said.
He said loyal regular customers kept the restaurant afloat by ordering food for pickup or dine-in and the business got creative with its offerings.
“We started doing frozen, eat-and-serve-at-home type of stuff.”
For Easter, Thanksgiving and now Christmas, the Highlevel Diner is also offering turkey dinners.
Its experience with the first lockdown is bolstering confidence heading into the weekend, when dining in will be banned.
The Highlevel will offer pick-up and delivery through SkipTheDishes, but Stoyko notes it comes with a commission fee for the restaurant.
Even with an exclusivity contract, SkipTheDishes takes 20 per cent off the top, Stokyo said. He explained an average order is about $30, so that mean $6 would go to Skip.
“Twenty per cent ends up being a lot. With the restaurant industry, we have razor-thin margins. We’re talking, like, a six per cent profit margin.”
SkipTheDishes recently announced new offers for Alberta restaurants which take effect with the restrictions on Sunday. They include the following:
- 25 per cent commission rebate for local, independent restaurants
- 0 per cent commission for new restaurants
- 10.5 per cent commission for restaurants using their own staff to deliver, but customers still order through SkipTheDishes
“Our support package includes a 25 per cent rebate on commissions, which gives hundreds of dollars to individual local restaurants each week,” SkipTheDishes said in a statement.
“Multiplied by the thousands of independent restaurants across the province on our platform, Skip will provide millions in support in Alberta over the next month.”
Stokyo said the rebate is appreciated, but notes helping keep restaurants afloat also helps SkipTheDishes.
“Without all these local restaurants, these local businesses, Skip really doesn’t have a business model. If we all go down, they go down.”
Maya Paramitha, the manager of another independent restaurant, Padmanadi, agreed.
She notes SkipTheDishes is one of the businesses thriving in the pandemic.
SkipTheDishes said since March, it’s seen a 99 per cent increase in the number of new restaurants signing up for delivery.
But still, Paramitha appreciates the help
“For them to do this, it’s very kind. They don’t have to.”
Padmanadi lost more than 45 per cent of its business in the first lockdown and the pandemic has caused the cancellation of various income sources, including weddings, birthdays, office parties and festivals.
“It impacted us tremendously,” Paramitha said.
READ MORE: COVID-19: Alberta restaurant owners say more financial help is needed to help them survive
She said take-out and delivery continued to be popular, even when dine-in was allowed.
“Most people choose to eat at home. Most people choose to get takeout instead of dining in, whether they feel safer or it becomes a habit.”
Padmanadi closed for eat-in service on Thursday, ahead of the provincial restrictions.
“People are still doing things like we’re living in a normal world and unfortunately — to protect my staff, to protect my family and to protect other guests — we have to close. This is the only way.”
This, despite December being the restaurant’s busiest month.
“We have three buffets, and for people that know our buffets, we pump out so much food. We go through 750 people every single buffet,” Paramitha explained.
But she too is worried about the cost of commission for delivery from SkipTheDishes, compared to pick-up orders.
“The difference is 26.5 per cent, that’s what I’m talking about,” she said.
But Padmanadi’s owners don’t think it’s feasible to run their own delivery service.
“It’s kind of hard to find the logistics to do delivery on our own and I find a lot of restaurants are in our position.”
Paramitha is hopeful she can continue to employ all of her staff, despite closing the front of house, by transitioning them to taking and packing orders.
She’s encouraging everyone to eat local and shop local this winter.
“This is when community comes together,” she said.
“Without the support, a lot of us aren’t going to make it to 2021.”