New supports offered to battered food and beverage industry

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

The Windsor Star/Mary Caton

 

The Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce is partnering with several organizations to launch a project that supports the COVID-battered food and beverage sector.

Piggybacking on its’ ShopYQG campaign, the chamber — along with Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island (TWEPI) and CUPE Local 543 (inside city hall workers) — have established DineYQG, an initiative that helps restaurant owners pivot their business and offers diners rewards for supporting local.

The collaboration offers those in the food and beverage industry support in establishing a digital platform, building a website, access to a free restaurant listing, a marketing toolkit and discounted services.

The chamber is hosting a virtual information session Feb. 4 to connect restaurant owners with various sponsors and partners of the #DineYQG campaign.

The program is available to all locally owned restaurants, bakeries, coffee shops, wineries, breweries and distillers to help them stay afloat during a time when business is limited to take-out and delivery.

Statistics show one in six local restaurants are likely to close permanently because of pandemic-fuelled financial losses, a number likely to increase based on the duration of the current provincial lockdown. The chamber reported that the sector has seen a 35 per cent reduction in employment from September to December of last year, representing a decrease of 3,600 jobs.

According to the latest survey from Restaurants Canada, eight out of 10 restaurants are either losing money or barely scraping by. Sixty-five per cent are continuing to operate at a loss while 19 per cent are just breaking even.

“This is a sector that’s taken a huge hit,” said Rakesh Naidu, WERCC’s President and CEO. “A significant number of people are employed in this sector. There is a huge impact to the regional economy. We definitely don’t want to see one in six restaurants close locally.”

Naidu noted “a significant number of restaurants were not able to offer services on a digital platform,” when the pandemic closed doors to in-person dining.

The campaign can help make that crucial pivot.

Sydney Filiault, the owner of Syd’s Sandwich Co. on Pelissier Street, has already been working with the Small Business Centre and used a grant from Digital Main Street to set up a website.

Filiault just opened her deli last October during the pandemic.

“For now, we’re really just pushing take-out and delivery, “Filiault said. “I’d use the term ‘bunkering down.’ We’re keeping it minimalist. I’ve worked in restaurants for years and January and February are traditionally slow. I don’t want to overwhelm myself.”

Naidu said there are plans to announce a delivery service model to businesses that will cut the overhead costs of using such a service to get goods to customers.

“We are looking for companies that would like to provide services at a discounted rate,” Naidu said. “Restaurants have asked for support in terms of delivery service which can cost 25 per cent or more in overhead.”

The campaign, he said, has received $154,000 in direct support.

The contest for diners opens Feb. 1 and runs to April 10. Proof of purchase from a local restaurant gives the diner a chance at a weekly prize of $100 while the restaurant they support has a chance at a weekly prize of $1,000.

Diners can visit dineyqg.ca for menus, specials, hours, and delivery info for local eateries. Bonus entries are available for sharing on social media, using #DineYQG.