‘I don’t even know if we’d stay open’: Moncton’s burger festival helping restaurants survive COVID-19

Click to play video: 'Moncton Burger Festival to occur amid new COVID-19 restrictions' Moncton Burger Festival to occur amid new COVID-19 restrictions
WATCH: Moncton Burger Festival to occur amid new COVID-19 restrictions – Jan 24, 2021

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions forcing dining rooms to close in the area, Moncton’s annual burger festival is continuing in its fourth year.

“It’s hundreds of burgers, every single day,” says Jennifer Somers, the general manager of Cheers Beverage Room. “Day in and day out, it’s awesome.”

News that the Moncton region was going to the red phase of New Brunswick’s COVID-19 recovery plan came only days into this year’s festival. That meant restaurants had to move to takeout or delivery only.

But the annual tradition is helping businesses keep their doors open.

Read more: ‘Old orange is the new red’: N.B. businesses feeling impacts of COVID-19 restrictions

“Without [Flip] Burger Fest, I don’t know if we’d be open for the same amount of hours,” says Chad Steeves, the founder and organizer of the event. “The burger fest right now is a big majority of our sales.”
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“It’s keeping my cooks in the kitchen working, it’s keeping front of house staff on to be able to handle the orders,” Steeves, who is also the owner of Tide & Boar Gastropub, says. “It’s a God-sent right now.”

Steeves says he saw burger events in other regions become successful, so he wanted to bring it to the Moncton area four years ago.

“January, in the restaurant industry in Moncton, has always been harsh,” he says. “It’s a hard time to get customers in. There’s a lot of snowstorms, bad weather.”

Sommers, the GM of Cheers, says they figured the pandemic would hit their burger festival sales hard — but that hasn’t been the case.

Read more: Feed Nova Scotia excited about Halifax Burger Week as it kicks off this weekend

“When burger fest rolled out on the Thursday, by Saturday, we had already hit what we thought we were going to do [in sales] for the whole festival,” she says.
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So not only is the tradition keeping some restaurants viable during a difficult month, it’s also helping them survive the pandemic.

“If we didn’t have burger fest rolling right now, I don’t even know if we’d stay open for takeout,” Sommers says.

The Moncton Burger Festival started January 14 and runs until January 31, with 28 restaurants participating.

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