Campbell River restaurants are no strangers to having to pivot their business models due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In what seems like a constant state of affairs, restaurants are preparing for yet another change to meet the COVID-19 restrictions that were announced on March 29. While the announcement was a bit of a disappointment for the management team at Session Taproom in Campbell River, after a year of pivoting business models and adapting to restrictions, they’re getting quite good at it.
“We’re all kind of optimists and problem solvers. We’ve been in a constant state of pivoting since everything initially shut down,” said Ryan Shankar-Price, taproom manager. “At this point, we have been open under restrictions longer than we had before. We were in our seventh or eighth month when the initial shut down happened, and it’s almost been a year to the day that that has happened now.”
“The second time around we are moving quite a bit more quickly in terms of what we’re able to do and hitting the ground more quickly than previously because we’ve got the experience,” he added.
Session is not the only Campbell River restaurant who has been open longer during COVID-19 than they had before. Crooked Spoon, an eatery also in the downtown area, had only been open for a few months before the first restrictions came in to place. Like Session, the Crooked Spoon has had to make some changes to their business model over the past year. They went from being a full-service sit down restaurant to a counter service, and had to rely heavily on their online sales of pre-made meals to get them through.
“Our sales last April and May were pretty rough and the online store is what got us through it,” Keighley said. “Then the farmers market, we did a bunch of those products at the farmers market last summer. That was super helpful too.”
“Restaurants are doing their due-diligence and have the safety measures in place,” he added. “To get told that the safety measures are not enough, it’s kind of a burn.”
Though the latest announcement is supposed to be only in place for three weeks, Shankar-Price said his team is preparing for the long-haul.
“I’m not holding my breath,” he said. “I’d say there’s a 25 per cent chance that date sticks. As we prepare for the next three weeks, we’re definitely looking further than that for what we can get in place now that will set us up if that doesn’t change.”
While it is strange for restaurant owners to not be able to rely on the restaurant portion of their business to make money, chef and owner of Crooked Spoon Jeremy Keighley says that they’re a resilient bunch of people.
“I think restaurant people are pretty stubborn and resilient as a group,” he said. “I’ve been a cook my whole life. You know there’s going to be challenges, but you don’t think one of them is that you’re not going to be allowed to have people in your restaurant… It’s been an interesting ride.”
That tenacity is what has kept restaurants open over the past year, and everyone from the servers to management have been very open to change throughout the ordeal.
“We couldn’t have continued to pivot and adapt if we didn’t have the team that we do here,” Chankar-Price said. “It’s almost entirely on them and on us to execute these changes as quickly as they’re thrown at us, so we are super grateful for the team that we have.”