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Restaurant owners draw on earlier pandemic experience during red phase

·2 min read

While the majority of New Brunswick is in the red phase of recovery, restaurant owners are once again adapting to serve their customers within the tightened restrictions.

But, at least this time they've got some experience for dealing with the red phase of recovery, where dine-in options are closed and restaurants can only offer take out and delivery.

The initial lockdown at the start of the pandemic last March led many owners to find creative ways to operate — just to survive.

George Georgoudis, co-owner of Vito's in Saint John, described the first couple of weeks last spring as 'survival mode'.

"I was in a state of shock for probably two weeks trying to get myself, you know, trying to figure out what just happened — it just came so fast," he said.

Gary Moore/CBC
Gary Moore/CBC

Georgoudis and three of his cousins own the family business.

He said by the third week of lockdown, they started working on a plan to survive the pandemic long-game, including its own delivery service.

"We decided that we'll use our own employees," he said, adding that some of the third party delivery services would have cost too much money.

"I rather employ our staff then try and give the money away," he said.

Vito's also started selling some of their meats that they buy in bulk to customers — another way the company extended services to survive the uncertain times.

In Fredericton, the owners of the 11th Mile restaurant were also looking at ways to make ends meet during the initial lockdown.

Co-owner Jennie Wilson said the restaurant was never designed to offer takeout — but they adapted quickly and found ways to offer food to go.

Gary Moore/CBC
Gary Moore/CBC

"We moved to doing curbside once a week," she said, adding that meals were prepared so that customers could finish preparations at home in less than ten minutes.

Wilson said it became a popular choice for their customers, and they continued to offer it throughout the pandemic.

The restaurant also offers a take-out menu while the region is in either the red or orange recovery phase.

And she said the province's decision to allow restaurants to sell alcohol to go was an added bonus for the restaurant that specializes in cocktails.

Wilson said things are better now compared to the beginning of the pandemic because they've already worked out the logistics.

"We've already thought through how to take payment, how to do contactless pickup, all those things. We're just sort of returning to what we had done previously."

Both restaurant owners said the government funds helped them survive the pandemic so far.

And they are both hoping that the current red phase doesn't last too long.