As Durham Region enters Stage 3 of Ontario’s reopening, business owners are happy to finally be able to invite customers back inside their restaurants.
“Our takeout was just 10 per cent,” says the owner of Coco Frutti, Khairrmohad Khalili.
“It wasn’t enough, but now we are so happy that we have the people.”
“It’s nice to get into a restaurant again, that’s for sure,” says David Clark, who was eating breakfast with his wife. “It’s been a long three to four months.”
Now that more businesses can open across the region, a number of restaurants like Coco Frutti in Oshawa were ready to greet guests bright and early on the first day of Stage 3 for what they hoped would be the breakfast rush.
But things are much different in the Stage 3 world — even when you order a coffee.
“We won’t be leaving the carafe on the table anymore,” says Sneha Singh, who works as a server at the restaurant.
“We’re going to take the cream and milk and ask them how they want it, basically kinda make it for them, but not touch it,” she says.
“This would eliminate more touching of the basket.”
Restaurants have to follow strict cleaning procedures and are only able to seat 50 per cent of their capacity. At Coco Frutti, they aren’t allowed to have anything on the tables including condiments.
But regardless of the protocols, the owner is hopeful that bringing customers inside will provide the boost his business needs.
“It’s been a rough few months, and I’m so happy that we do have the customers inside the restaurant,” says Khalili.
But not all businesses are capable of reopening, even though they have been given permission from the province. Restaurants like Ciao Amici have little space and are unable to provide a safe environment for their customers.
“With social distancing, I can’t open my store,” says Lisa Alexiou, who owns the restaurant with her husband. She says she has seen a significant loss due to being closed.
“I’ve been hit from every angle,” she says. “Stage 3 is no different for me.
“I’ve lost up to 65 per cent of my business. The biggest hit was my catering, because all of the events got cancelled.”
Their quaint Itailan restaurant in downtown Oshawa only fit four tables before the pandemic. Now, with restrictions in place, she would have very little to work with.
“I’d only be able to sit maybe three people and one person working for pickup,” says Alexiou.
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The business owner has been open in the location for five years and says she has fallen through the cracks when it comes to any sort of help from the government.
“The little guys are forgotten,” she says. “Unfortunately a lot of my colleagues that own restaurants have had to shut them down.
“To keep us above water, until this pandemic is over, a little more assistance would be great.”
Whether businesses try to reopen or not, for most, this will be a period of trial and error.
“We’re practicing,” says Sneha. “Today is the first day and we’re going to learn things from the customers.”
As for places like Ciao Amici, that will rely partially on foot traffic, and it’s hoped attractions like museums and theatres reopening can help them keep afloat.
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