Déjà Vu Café, a staple in the Moose Jaw, Sask., food scene and well known outside of the Friendly City, has been closed since May 16 after simply running out of chicken.
The restaurant, which has been featured on the Food Network because of its popularity, covered up their front windows and put up a sign explaining the situation during the temporary closure.
“Sometimes you hear people through the door, like, ‘No chicken’,” said owner Brandon Richardson.
The staff at Deja Vu Cafe — known for its chicken wings and milkshakes — are just as stunned as their customers about being closed due to a shortage of the item that makes up 95 per cent of their menu. In fact, the restaurant only has three main menu items that don’t involve chicken.
“I’ve been here 10 and a half years. We’ve ran out of stuff for a few hours, maybe a day but never like this,” said manager Kelly Tollefson.
Like many other businesses since the pandemic began, Deja Vu is at the mercy of the supply chain.
“Our supplier was down to the end of stock. We got the last of it and we ran with it until there was no more. Just waiting for new shipments,” said Richardson.
“It seems like that’s the reason for everything now days. I mean I never thought in a million years two years after it all started would be when we started seeing supply shortages,” said Tollefson.
Deja Vu is known for its variety of over 100 flavours of both milkshakes and chicken. But more importantly, the owners said, it’s recognized for its quality, which is why they weren’t willing to try a new supplier to avoid closing in the short term.
“It’s our brand. It’s our homemade chicken strips. It’s our chicken wings. We’ve used the same product since day 1 and I’m just totally against substitutions or changing the product,” emphasized Richardson.
Tollefson echoed the sentiment, saying, “Chicken is chicken, yes, but the quality we serve here is amazing. You can’t find it anywhere else so we’re not going to drop down and people get what they’re not expecting from us”.
The timing of the chicken shortage is not ideal but it could’ve been worse, Richardson said.
“Thankfully it did not happen in June, July, or August. Our busiest months here in Moose Jaw for tourism and everyone getting out,” pointed out Richardson.
“For us to have to close right before a basketball tournament for instance was in town. That’s 66 teams. Guaranteed we would’ve gotten some of those teams in and we couldn’t because unfortunately we had to close,” reminded Tollefson.
After all the closures and capacity limits seen in the last couple of years, this is yet another hurdle for Déjà Vu, who found success in takeout orders during the peak of the pandemic.
“This whole thing has been a new learning curve of how to operate a business, changes that you have to make throughout, and sometimes hard decisions. Mine was to temporarily close until our product comes in because I don’t want to jeopardize our product or the way we do things,” said Richardson.
The restaurant’s owner made the most of the time while they were closed, which customers will be able to see when they return for the popular chicken.
“We put new flooring throughout the building, we did some painting, we did some extra repairs. More and more cleaning which they do every day but we did more and more so we got a lot accomplished,” said Richardson.
Customers will be able to check out the renovations when the store reopens on June 1st. They are expecting a shipment of chicken early next week in preparation for a busy and exciting week.
“It’s so fun. Working in this restaurant for as long as I have you meet so many new people. It’s just a great environment,” said Tollefson.