Foodservice industry workers gear up for summer with province lifting restrictions
BY HIATT ABENDSCHOEN
Some post-secondary students look for summer jobs in the foodservice industry for the flexible hours and prospect of tips, but this patio season comes with obstacles and may not be as fruitful as years past.
Bailey Logan, a third-year RRC nursing student, has worked at JOEY Kenaston for four years. She was collecting the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) until the provincial government lifted patio restrictions for restaurants on May 4.
“I initially thought it was way too soon,” said Logan.
She said she questioned if government officials were adequately attentive to health concerns or if the reopening was propelled by economic difficulties.
But Logan, who was back at work the day after patios opened, said JOEY has taken the necessary precautions to protect staff and patrons.
“Management has done a really good job making sure everyone feels comfortable and safe…Orientation was very serious.”
The 24-year-old said restaurant management takes each employee’s temperature before their shifts start and provides mandatory masks and gloves. They’ve also hired additional staff to ensure proper sanitation.
With limited seating capacity and modified serving methods, Logan said she isn’t able to serve the same volume of customers as previous summers, but she does feel safe and comfortable.
Some locals businesses, however, have not been able to transition so easily.
Hospitality and Tourism Management grad Zac Chizda, 24, has worked in food service since he was 14.
Chizda worked as the hospitality coordinator at The Forks before taking a cooking job at Oxbow in South Osborne.
Oxbow doesn’t have a patio and Chizda said as far as he knows, they don’t have plans to open any time soon. But, he hopes to work in the kitchen at their sister company, The Roost on Corydon when their patio opens.
“I wouldn’t be looking forward to going back to work if it weren’t at a place like The Roost,” Chizda said. “If they’re going to try to serve the community in a safe way, I’m excited to be a part of that,” he said.
Segovia, a popular tapas restaurant in Osborne Village announced its permanent closure on May 13. Chizda said despite government assistance programs in place, he worries about how other local restaurants will fare moving forward.
“I truthfully don’t think the industry will be the same, ever,” he said.
West Broadway eatery Magic Bird Fried Chicken will not benefit from the eased patio restrictions.
“We would only be able to seat two people given the current parameters,” said Mischa Decter, general manager and co-owner at Magic Bird.
Decter, 27, started the part-time accounting diploma at RRC in January. As COVID-19 forced layoffs, Decter said he is now working over 50 hours a week. He dropped one of his classes and is unsure if he will continue his studies as planned.
Though the restaurant has taken a hit in alcohol sales, Decter said they are thriving in food sales. The restaurant registered with three delivery services to optimize revenue, and deliveries now make up more than half of their revenue.
“We’re pretty much maxed out in terms of food production,” Decter said. He and the other co-owners are working to maximize income and limit costs.
“We only have one regular staff worker on the payroll right now.”
The small business decided to use some of their revenue to give back to the community. Two dollars from each purchase of their current special “The Japabird” goes to their Community Support fund to buy fresh produce for food hampers.
“We realized after a couple of weeks we were going to be fine getting through this, and we might as well pay it forward,” Decter said.
The provincial government’s guidelines for patio/walk-up services can be found here.