Like so many others across the country, London, Ont., restaurant owners are facing an uncertain future as the novel coronavirus pandemic forces businesses to close their doors for an indeterminate amount of time.
A survey from not-for-profit Restaurants Canada estimates 800,000 jobs have been lost in the sector across Canada, with 300,000 of those in Ontario.
Nicole Istifan, owner of The Singing Chef at Fanshawe Park and Hyde Park roads, said it’s been difficult not just from a business perspective, but personally as well.
“It’s hard, because these people that work for us, they’re amazing people, this is their full-time income. This is what’s paying the bills for their families,” she said.
“We have so many regular customers that come in that we wonder how they’re doing. We have a lot of elderly customers that do come in and see us for their daily breakfast, their daily lunch and we miss seeing them.”
The restaurant tried offering delivery and pickup services, but Nicole says it just wasn’t feasible.
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“We’re so thankful to those customers that did give us a call and place a pickup order, however, there just wasn’t enough of it to keep that going so we made a tough decision about three days later to close the doors and just take this time with the family, be home, self-isolate, and just do our part.”
Mike Smith owns a handful of bars and restaurants in London and acknowledges it’s “tough all over.”
Smith says since the buildings are closed to the public, they’re also offering some work painting and cleaning.
While Smith acknowledges that the future is uncertain, he stressed there have been many examples of kindness and thoughtfulness from customers.
He highlighted the actions of one man in particular.
“Those sales aren’t enough, but it’s that kind of spirit. She had a tear in her eye because it made her feel good, made me feel good to see people like that.”
Smith says that same man visited another restaurant in the city and offered to buy $1,000 in gift certificates for when local restaurants do reopen.
“I said why don’t we wait ’til we’re close to that point in case we never reopen. I don’t want you being out the money.”
–With a file from The Canadian Press.
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