restaurants reopen

Here's how restaurants in Canada might need to operate once they're allowed to reopen

As some provinces lift lockdown measures, restaurants in Canada are starting to think more about what the future looks like once they're finally able to reopen for dine-in service. They could look to Hong Kong for guidance.

Black Sheep Restaurants is a hospitality group in Hong Kong that recently released  a COVID-19 Playbook. The detailed document outlines new protocols its restaurants will implement post-pandemic, and it may offer a glimpse into the future of Canadian food service.

The group has shared it on their website for "anyone in the industry who may find it helpful."

According to the playbook, protocols for waitstaff include:

  • handwashing every 30 minutes
  • a ban on physical contact (no handshakes, high fives, fist bumps etc.)
  • mandatory masks
  • daily temperature checks
  • increased sanitization processes
  • limited contact (e.g. splitting the team into As and Bs so that if one half of the team becomes ill, the other half can still work)

Protocols for diners include:

  • a health declaration form that guests must sign before entering the restaurant
  • turning away guests that refuse to complete the form (Black Sheep reveals that they once turned away 50 guests in one night)
  • temperature checks
  • physical distancing measures (e.g. only setting every other table)
  • wipes or hand sanitizer (ideally on every table)

"It is important to stay optimistic but also realistic about the future," Black Sheep warns. "It is going to be a long time (if ever) that the restaurant landscape looks the way it used to."

And while Restaurants Canada VP James Rilett told Freshdaily that it's unlikely Canadian restaurants will resort to "extreme measures" like taking diners' temperatures, many are still planning to introduce some new protocols.

In Manitoba, all restaurants opening their patios next week will need to operate at no more than 50 per cent of their normal capacity, in accordance with governmental restrictions.

Buffets and drink refills will also be scrapped, and anything on tables — such as napkin dispensers or condiments — must be sanitized between customers.

In British Columbia, restaurants are similarly gearing up for their reopening, although the exact date has yet to be determined.

Speaking with Global News, Restaurant and Foodservices Association president Ian Tostenson says his organization is submitting a plan to the government outlining measures that restaurants could take upon reopening.

Suggestions include:

  • temperature checks for guests and staff
  • masks and gloves for front-of-house workers
  • plexiglass barriers between booths
  • hand sanitizing stations
  • reduced restaurant seating capacity
  • capping group sizes

And it's not just the lay-out of Canada's restaurants that could change; they may be forced to switch up their menus, as well.

Although the overall supply chain remains strong, any Canadian who's entered a supermarket recently knows that eggs, flour, fresh beef and other select groceries are in high demand.

Speaking with New Food, Marc Fortin, President and CEO at RCC-Quebec, says that Canadians will have "less choice" in food if pressure on the supply chain continues.

"Supplies of locally-grown produce such as Quebec carrots and Ontario carrots are sparse come spring, so we are relying on the US and Mexico for those," he said.

But not all changes in the restaurant industry are negative; the pandemic has encouraged independent restaurants in Canada to become creative, with some offering new services such as online cooking tutorials or DIY meals kits.

Speaking with CBC, Patrick Saurette, owner of The Marc in Edmonton, says that he believes some of those new services will become permanent fixtures — and will lead to the resurgence of the independent restaurant sector in about a year.

"It's just too large of a piece of our economy for it to entirely go away," he said. "I think it'll strengthen."

Lead photo by

Hector Vasquez

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