Restaurants struggling to meet new demands put on them by pandemic
SAINT JOHN, N.B. -- Restaurants all over the Maritimes are struggling to adapt to the pandemic and to new health and safety rules imposed on the industry.
These days, that means more emphasis on cleanliness and social distancing, and even taking customer contact information.
"We want our guests, when they come in, to feel safe," says Peter Stoddart, who owns a restaurant in Saint John, N.B.
To do that, a lot of new requirements are being shouldered by the industry.
"Make sure we have the proper PPE (personal protective equipment), the proper masks, proper sanitation process, proper staff screening and guest screening and making sure we have our contact system in place," he said.
But so far, many restaurants are not seeing the returns.
Restaurant owners are facing a dramatic drop in revenue and some predict hundreds of establishments may not survive the year.
"It is a matter of survival," says Carol Alderdice of the Tourism Industry Association of New Brunswick. "When you think about it, 62 per cent of our restaurants are operating at a loss. That can't continue."
The same is true in Nova Scotia, where more than 34,000 people work in the restaurant industry.
"Right now, they're trying to carry their rent or their mortgage based on sales that are half of what they used to be," said Gordon Stewart of the Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia. "So, we're looking at now, by the end of fall, we could see as many as 500 restaurants not being able to go forward."
Stewart says, so far, the Atlantic bubble has not made a big difference.
"With the exception of some take-out orders, the hospitality industry was essentially shut down for three months," he said. "Now, as restaurants struggle to reopen, they're finding that training and training costs are far more significant than ever before."
On Thursday, the New Brunswick government announced help with some of those training costs.
"We need to have New Brunswickers feel comfortable, getting out, getting into a restaurant, and the sooner we make them comfortable to do that, the better we're going to be," said New Brunswick Labour and Training Minister Trevor Holder.
That turnaround can't come soon enough.
"We're gonna get through this year, and keep things rolling and keeping our guests in a safe and fun and back to normal as we can kinda do here," said Stoddart.
But first, customers will have to return to Maritime restaurants in big numbers.