Morgan Bell
Morgan Bell
October 1, 2020

The Effects of COVID-19 on Local Restaurants

Photo by Jules Keenan

Following COVID-19 related restrictions, local businesses have done their best to stay in business. The government has supported Canadian restaurants with benefits such as the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy. Its purpose is to aid businesses by paying their employees a certain percentage of regular salary. After seven months, CEWS is set to wind down in a few weeks. 

Fredericton restaurants like Isaac’s Way and the Abbey Café & Gallery are doing their best to adjust to their new normal. 

“We’ve seen a decrease in sales, there’s an increase in costs due to following COVID-19 protocols, we’ve had a decrease in staff and in order to stay afloat during the shutdown time frame we needed to take out a loan,” said Tabatha Smith, one of four owners of Isaac’s Way and The Abbey Café & Gallery.

After the pandemic struck Fredericton in late March, restaurants had no choice but to close. One week later, Smith began to offer take-out and delivery services. 

“We were very humbled by the community's support. I would say that our customer base really made an effort to support us during that phase, so we were very grateful and continue to be very grateful for that,” Smith expressed. 

Although the restaurants were able to operate, sales had decreased immensely. To cut back on expenses, only the four owners worked to operate the businesses. 

CEWS has helped the restaurants immensely in covering costs to operate during this time. 

“We were, and are, very thankful for the government’s program because it has helped us operate and navigate this new landscape,” said Smith.

In mid-June, they were able to reopen their dining room and 20 of their 36 staff members returned as demand increased. However, even the increase in customers was no match for previous years.

“In August we did 55 per cent comparable to last August,” explained Smith.

The opening of the Isaac’s Way patio allowed for more seating, which was very helpful in wake of the dining room limiting seating due to social distancing protocols. 

“I think that the outside dining allowed the customers that were nervous to feel safer,” Smith said, who was grateful for the customers that chose to visit the restaurant.

The cold weather may lead to the patio closing down, which will bring the sales back down. Smith expressed concern at the prospect of not reaching financial benchmarks of past years.

“Normally we would close the patio after Harvest Jazz and Blues weekend, but this year it has not been taken down yet.” 

As the end date for CEWS approaches, Smith feels that her staff will have no choice but to decrease. Owners will need to add more tasks on to their already full lists in order to cover wage costs with the expected decrease in sales. The restaurants in Fredericton, like Isaac’s Way, are doing their best in these uncertain times.

“We will just have to do our best to adjust to that when it all happens.” 

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