The restaurant industry has been decimated by closures since March 2020 and the approaching months could be grim for many restaurants, Firkin Pubs included. Restaurants have survived the past six months without any certainty that there will still be a neon open sign for all of us at the end of the tunnel.
Firkin Pubs was established in 1987 and has since grown to serve as the local modern British pub in 23 Ontario neighbourhoods. Like many restaurants, our pubs have always played a critical role in their respective communities – they are a place for people to meet, gather and socialize.
On March 16th, Larry Isaacs, President of The Firkin Group of Pubs, made the difficult decision to close down all locations in an effort to combat the spread of COVID-19. After some time, a handful of pubs reopened operating on a takeout-only model with some branching out to offer delivery of food or grocery kits with a percentage of proceeds going to a local charity. Adaptation continues to be challenging because takeout is not a sustainable model for the industry to survive over the long-term. At the end of the day, the heart of Firkin Pubs lies in the pub experience we offer to our communities.
During these unprecedented times, Firkin Pubs turned to online communications: emails, website and social media. We wanted to connect with our community online to communicate important updates with our customers such as new house rules, which pubs are offering delivery, changed hours and reminding customers to bring their masks. When it comes to our health and safety, it is important for us to show our community what we’re doing and to lead by example. Our health and safety protocols include: use of digital contactless menus through QR codes, temperature checks, maintaining 6ft distance, staff screenings, mandatory contact tracing and enhanced cleaning protocols.
When Toronto restaurants were able to open outdoor patios at 50% capacity, our staff and customers were ecstatic to have things back to ‘normal’. But this excitement for patio season was only a smoke and mirrors of success. The reality is, you cannot afford to pay 100% of your bills when you don’t have 100% of your business.
Our 23 GTA pubs have relied on CECRA, deals with landlords and now CEWS to remain open. Firkin Group of Pubs is currently employing 150 people, down from 500 pre-COVID-19. The restaurant industry holds up 1.2 million employees. 800,000 of them are off work and we need them back. When operating at full capacity, a restaurant only makes between 4-6% bottom-line profit. So when operating at 50%, there’s no profitability to put in the bank.
Restaurants need sustained government support to ensure the survival of restaurants which are crucial to the overall Canadian economy. The Firkin Group of Pubs stands in solidarity with restaurants across Canada to bring awareness to the plight of our suffering industry, in supporting the “Our Restaurants” campaign and The Canadian Chamber of Commerce.