While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to challenge the Canadian foodservice industry, the foodservice industry is responding with resilience.
Across the board, Restaurants Canada estimates that 800,000 foodservice jobs have already been lost due to COVID-19. In Nova Scotia, 24,500 jobs have been lost since March 1. The province’s $2.1 billion foodservice industry represents 4.6 per cent of the province’s GDP and if conditions do not improve, Restaurants Canada estimates that the province’s foodservice sales will be down more than $440 million for the second quarter of 2020.
Knowing these stats, it’s imperative to recognize some of the incredible restaurants and operations that are working to support the larger community in this time of need.
Though restaurants are being faced with the effects of this devastating pandemic, across Nova Scotia, operators are banding together with their neighbourhoods and cities to ensure that they are providing meals and food donations to residents. We spoke with two restaurant owners who are leading the way in their communities.
Bill Pratt is the founder, director, and driving force behind the Chef Inspired® group of restaurants; he owns a number of restaurants across Atlantic Canada (in addition to food trucks and a brewery) and has spent 42 years in the foodservice industry.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Pratt is currently exploring home meal replacement options, however when the crisis first hit, Pratt had made the decision to close down his establishments for three weeks. As he saw the numerous frontline workers: police, firefights, paramedics, etc. that were working hard to support, he was compelled to show them some gratitude with some delicious complimentary poutine!
“I have a huge production kitchen in the industrial park in Dartmouth and reached out to the city planners and emergency team a couple times to offer my facility for emergency feeding if need be,” explains Pratt.
“We are also taking one of our food trucks out of winterization early this year and hope to go around to all the hospitals in the Halifax region over the next couple of weeks to give away free poutines to the frontline workers as a treat for them.”
Pratt estimates that they’ve given away hundreds of meals so far and suspects that they will be able to get thousands of meals out with their food trucks.
Pratt is clearly proud (and rightfully so) of how he has been able to give something back to the community. He elaborates: “Restaurants are the backbone of our communities and so many industries are reliant upon us, if we sink, then the economy sinks. Although many restaurants are sinking in debt, I am amazed at how many restaurateurs are stepping up to help their communities.”
Scott Morrison, owner of Flavour Restaurant & Catering Group in Cape Breton Island started a donation project, using the money donated to prepare meals for those in need in Sydney, Nova Scotia.
Flavor Restaurant & Catering Group has three locations on Cape Breton Island. Their first location, Flavor Downtown, opened in September of 2008 in Downtown Sydney.
Their community program allows customers as well as corporate sponsors to purchase meals prepared by Flavor and to have them donated to families in need, loved ones, or local community organizations. It’s a win-win program for Morrison who says that it, “helps both our restaurant gain some revenue as well as provide a needed community service.”
“We have provided meals for many community members, neighbourhood families and senior, and organizations like Transition House, Red Cross as well as schools.”
Morrison echoes Pratt’s sentiments on the importance of community service: “We all live in the same community and it’s important to find ways to move forward with your business and at the same time helping the community. This is our model, not only in these times but all day, every day. It is part of Flavor’s core values.”