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Weekly takeout initiatives take off in Airdrie

An Airdrie woman is hoping residents will buy into an idea to help support local restaurants and businesses that are hurting due to the COVID-19 pandemic – Takeout Tuesday.

"Takeout Tuesday is at least one day when Airdronians should look at the amazing choices our restaurants offer us and order out, whether it be breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert or even snacks,” said Josy Parrotta-Marck. 

While restaurants are still allowed to be open, public health orders limit them to offering strictly delivery and takeout. The Alberta government banned sit-down service at restaurants in March, as a way to limit gatherings and interactions between people. 

"It is so difficult for restaurant owners right now – many have already gone under, and they would be so appreciative,” Parrotta-Marck said.

An initiative to support restaurants has even launched nationwide, using the hashtag #takeoutday on social media. Canada Takeout emerged in early April, asking Canadians to order delivery or takeout from their favourite restaurants every Wednesday. April 15 was recognized as the first Canada Takeout Day.

"We have more than 69,000 brick-and-mortar restaurant units across Canada, and the majority of their revenue came from on-premise sales – people going in and having a seat," said Robert Carter, a food services industry advisor for the StratonHunter group. "The off-premise, delivery channel, for most restaurants…that represented only about 15 to 25 per cent of their business.

With the loss of 75 to 80 per cent of most restaurants' sales, Carter said it is important to make sure consumers understood these restaurants are still open and here to deliver food.

"At the same time, it demonstrates support for these restaurants, which have seen a dramatic decrease in revenue due to a change in business model," he said. 

On a positive note, Carter added the first iteration of National Takeout Day saw positive results.

"What we experienced right across the country was that there was strong buy-in from consumers," he said. "Restaurants on average saw increases, everywhere from 15 to 20 per cent in volume – all the way to 50 per cent increases in volume – compared to the previous week.

"These restaurants are a staple of the community in a lot of cities across the country, so it is great that consumers are supporting them.

The campaign also includes 'Canada's Great Big Kitchen Party – Home Edition,' with weekly gatherings being held via Facebook Live every Wednesday evening, starting at 6 p.m. and hosted by George Stromboulopolous. Guests will include Great Big Sea's Alan Doyle, Blue Rodeo's Jim Cuddy and figure skating champion Tessa Virtue.

Canada’s food service sector was one of the first to feel the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on businesses, as governments implemented measures to help contain the spread of the virus. Restaurants Canada published a survey April 2 that found more than 800,000 restaurant workers lost their jobs in March.

“Not only was our industry among the first to feel the impacts of COVID-19, we’ve been one of the hardest hit so far, with nearly two thirds of our workforce now lost,” said Restaurants Canada President and CEO Shanna Munro in a statement.

The survey, conducted March 25 to 29, indicated four out of every five Canadian restaurants laid off employees, while nearly 10 per cent of restaurants had already closed permanently. Another 18 per cent indicated they would close permanently before the end of April, if current conditions continue.

"In our 75 years of existence as Canada’s national food-service association, these are by far the worst numbers we have ever seen,” Munro said.

In Airdrie, a survey conducted by the City March 25 to 30 indicated 90 per cent of businesses in the accommodation and food services sector laid off employees by the end of March.

Government measures to help restaurants have been announced throughout the pandemic. On April 6, Canada’s finance minister, Bill Morneau, announced bars and lounges will now have access to $40 billion in new credit via the federal government’s business bank.

"Just as our governments are infusing money into the Canadian economy in order to keep it going, [Takeout Tuesday] is a way to plug some of our money into the local economy,” Parrotta-Marck said. "This is our community, and Takeout Tuesdays is a way to recognize that the pandemic will all be over sometime. When it is, we need our local economy to return to viability.”

Scott Strasser,
Follow me on Twitter @scottstrasser19