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Restaurant operators shift direction

Take-out is now the big choice

Public life in Alberta is grinding to near-total halt after top provincial health officials issued to what amounts a total shutdown of bars, nightclubs, casinos, recreation centres and fitness facilities.

Restaurant dining rooms are still permitted to remain open, but they are limited to serving at 50 per cent capacity to a maximum of 50 people.

Due to sweeping changes, most St. Albert restaurateurs are taking proactive action and closing dining rooms. Instead, they are focusing on take-out from limited menus posted on their websites.

One restaurant, however, plans to keep her dining room open as well as serving take-out. Gidget’s Bistro, a vegan restaurant based in Campbell Park, opened its doors in late 2019.

“We plan to stay open until we’re mandated to shut down. I’ve already reduced my staff. Some chose to stay home and I respect that,” said owner/chef Gidget Bouchard.

Up until the pandemic, Bouchard’s sales were on the uptick.

“Sales were meeting quotas and then March hit. Now we’re making one-quarter of what we thought we’d be making,” Bouchard said, and the frustration is mounting.

“I can control the product quality. I can control the team. I can control the service. But I could never control a global pandemic.”

To mitigate the virus spread, she is spacing out tables and chairs as well as sanitizing everything. Employees wear gloves and menus are sanitized after each use.

Bouchard is also encouraging take-out.

“Just phone and order, and I’ll bring the food out to the car.”

RELATED: Restaurants ask federal government for help to stay afloat amid coronavirus shutdowns

Over at XIX Nineteen, the dining hall closed its doors Tuesday. However, a take-out menu is still available.

“It was a proactive decision to safeguard our staff, our guests and the community from the spread of the virus. It’s our social responsibility to minimize it as much as we can,” said Holly Estacio, XIX manager.

Many regulars are within walking distance such as Botanica, the luxury adult community on the north banks of the Sturgeon River.

“We’re requesting people to order by phone or on social media and pick it up in person. But they can’t come in the restaurant. They have to wait for their food outside or in the car.”

Estacio acknowledged the restaurant will take a financial hit.

“But now is not the time to worry about it.”

XIX is planning to keep its dining room doors closed for two weeks and assess the situation.

“If it’s safe, we’ll open the dining room. If not, we’ll continue to close our doors.”

Up on St. Albert Trail, Larry Podloski, owner of East Side Mario’s explained that the entire 2,000-restaurant chain across Canada has temporarily shut its dining room doors.

“Our approach has been the health and safety of our guests and employees. We are doing our part to reduce the further spread of COVID-19,” said Podloski.

The restaurant will be closed for a two-week period when a review of the COVID-19 landscape will take place.

In the meantime, take out is available in person or it can be delivered for an extra fee by Skip The Dishes delivery or DoorDash.

As with most restaurateurs across the city, Nathan Pratap co-owner of Cerdos Tacos + Tequilas is also assessing the situation. He has closed the dining room’s doors, but uploaded a modified take-out menu on the website.

One of his issues will be accessing certain products and conversely keeping other products fresh before they expire.

“Last week, we noticed a 60-per-cent drop,” said Pratap of the popular family restaurant.

One of his creative strategies is to offer a 20-per-cent discount on orders.

“It’s an incentive to do take-out and keep the business flowing. We’re open until we’re forced to close or until it’s not working.”

COVID-19 UPDATE: Follow our COVID-19 special section for the latest local and national news on the coronavirus pandemic, as well as resources, FAQs and more.

Riverbank Bistro is also sticking to the take-out format only.

Owner/Red Seal Chef Daniel Ducharme noticed a slowdown this past weekend when his regular Sunday brunch attracted a soft clientele. As with several other restaurants, he also experienced a couple of large-event cancellations.

“Everyone is in the same boat. We have to pull together and pray for the best.”

One restaurant that may ride out the corona virus pressure is Amore Pizza. Grandin’s long-time family-run pizzeria's clients differ from most local restaurants.

Manager Lise Kidney said, “95 per cent of our orders are take-out. Getting hit with this virus is a real shame. But it might benefit us because we have no place to sit. We only have two benches.”

She added it was business as usual adding the restaurant has ramped up sanitization.

Health announcements from both the provincial and federal levels are very fluid changing day-by-day, hour-by-hour. Restaurant guests are encouraged to check websites or phone ahead for up-to-date information.