The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has had British Columbia in its grips for over a year now, and through the many challenges these past several months have posed, our restaurants have been bearing the brunt of multiple restrictions on service.
What was an initial halt of service for St. Patrick's Day 2020 immediately evolved into a ban on indoor dining altogether in the province, lasting until late May. Eventually, expedited patio approvals and temporary patio programs were launched in order to help restaurants off-set their losses and reduced indoor seating capacities implemented to ensure physical distancing.
Several businesses pivoted to offer take-out, picnic packs, cocktail kits, groceries, and meal kits and created packaged products to sell direct-to-consumer or through new businesses created to connect customers with local food product producers and restaurants. Relaxed laws around alcohol sales allowed restaurants to boost revenue by selling liquor to-go with food purchases.
On March 29, 2021, Dr. Bonnie Henry amended current public health orders to implement a three-week suspension of indoor dining in B.C.
Back in early March 2020, before there were restrictions in place, we shared some suggestions for ways to support local restaurants in the face of the COVID-19 crisis. While that crisis swiftly became a pandemic and public health measures have changed the way we experience restaurants, many of those options still ring true for what's happening right now.
Here are 8 easy ways you can help your local restaurants and food businesses right now:
1. Dine outdoors at local restaurants
Thanks to the city's temporary patio program, several Vancouver restaurants offer outdoor dining, including many with all-weather set-ups. Start with your neighbourhood restaurants and familiar spots where you are most comfortable, but you might also want to pay a visit to some new spots you've yet to check out. You can often hit up a restaurant's website or social media pages to see images of their outdoor dining area and to read about their COVID-19 safety plan.
2. Order take out directly from the restaurant if possible, or from third-party apps
Pick up lunch or dinner for yourself or your household bubble! There are numerous online ordering platforms that are in full operation, as well as there is the option with several establishments to order directly from them by phone or web. Over the past year, many "ghost kitchens" have launched, which are restaurants operating out of commissary kitchens and doing take-out and delivery only, which means there are more places than ever to choose from. If we get a patch of rain-free weather, consider having a picnic in a park and ordering your eats from a restaurant.
3. Purchase meal kits, groceries and packaged foods from restaurants
Last spring several Vancouver restaurants added an exciting new way to provided food to customers through meal kits, packaged foods, and even selling groceries. For example, if you normally buy your beans from the grocery store, switch things up and get them from your neighbourhood cafe instead. You'll find packaged foods from local favourites on services like Legends Haul and SPUD, as well as available directly from restaurants themselves.
4. Get your booze from restaurants and breweries
Skip the provincial liquor store when possible and buy direct from restaurants, wineries, and breweries. In addition, several restaurants have great cocktail kits put together, and may even do online or video courses to go with them, for a fun interactive night. Plus, this way, you can imbibe safely at home, and support local businesses.
5. Don't forget to tip!
Hospitality industry workers have lost hours, faced the public day after day, and now have increased health and safety protocols as part of their daily routine. They're making your food and drinks and bringing it to your patio table or packing it in your take-out bag for you under these circumstances. Tip as generously as you can.
6. Purchase gift certificates and merch
Spend now, come back when you're ready. Or rock a tote bag, mug, or tee from your favourite local spot.
7. Honour your reservations, or cancel them at least 24 hours in advance
This is not the time to be indecisive or a flake. If you have a seat on the patio reserved, a restaurant has ordered food and put staff on the schedule to accommodate you, whether you're a table of two or the current maximum of six. Go as planned, or reach out to reschedule or cancel at least 24 hours in advance.
8. Engage on social media and keep in touch
Keep sharing photos from your restaurant visits, current or past. Comment on the photos of your favourite bars, cafes, and eateries. Re-share messages that talk about ways to support restaurants or special promotions. Sign up for restaurants' digital newsletters. Look for special menus or promos, too, that you can enjoy for take-out or delivery.