Let me share a secret with you. Restaurants were doomed before Covid–19 hit us.
We know that the Canadian restaurant industry is in crisis. Restaurants, however, have barely been treading water for some time – the pandemic just pushed us over the edge. My business partner, Colin Tooke, and I, are trying to find ways to adapt because of Covid–19: Our new project on Ossington that was supposed to open in May has been put on hold and Tacos Rico (our newest outpost across from Trinity Bellwoods Park) is in limbo because it relies heavily on summer tourism. But the hard truth is that we were struggling to survive long before any of this happened. And that this moment could be an opportunity to fix what is broken with the restaurant industry and rethink how we do business.
“Just put me out of my misery,” I joked to Colin, my partner in five businesses over the past eight years. It was March 14, 2020, and there was a nervous energy humming below the surface of every conversation, news story and daily routine. A new virus called Covid–19 was approaching like a dust storm, looming large on the horizon and creeping toward Toronto with a terrifying persistence.
As news of lockdowns in Asia and Europe rolled in, it was inevitable that the same would soon come to Canada. Sales were down 25 percent from the previous year at Grand Electric, our first restaurant, and Tacos Rico was flatlining on account of an already cold spring. When the announcement was made on March 16 that all restaurants had to close, waves of deep sadness, and then relief, washed over me.