Restaurants urge diners to support local during lockdown

by | Nov 20, 2020 | News

New restaurants in Toronto are urging diners to support local businesses during the pandemic.

Many restaurants opened in Toronto during the COVID-19 pandemic but current health and safety restrictions in Ontario prevent customers from eating inside.

“Not being able to do dining indoors has impacted our business significantly,” said Sara Jorgensen, manager of Maison T on Shaw Street, said.

Masayuki Tamaru, chef and owner of Maison T, opened the restaurant on Oct. 24 in a residential area with less competition and where the restaurant is getting a lot of support from the neighbourhood.

“We were hoping that we would be into Stage 3 by the time we opened up for dining, but that didn’t happen. So, it was just an opportune moment for the chef,” Jorgensen said about the reason behind Tamaru’s new business.

Due to restrictions on indoor dining, a strong social media presence has become a must for Toronto restaurant owners looking to promote their new businesses.

“We have to be more (ingenious) on social media and delivery platforms to capture that business,” Jorgensen said.

Lynsey McMillan, general manager of Salvo on St. Joseph Street in downtown Toronto, said she “had to market ourselves online and have a big social media presence” when the restaurant opened.

“We didn’t have the luxury of people coming into the restaurant and seeing the space,” McMillan said.

She said she is using a variety of sites, including Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn to rebrand Salvo.

Until a year ago, the restaurant was called The Wickson Social, but a flood in November 2019 forced its closure. It reopened Oct. 19, 2020, under the same ownership.

“It’s been quite a long year. So, we were kind of looking to open, and we are all excited to come back,” McMillan said.

The pandemic is limiting potential new customers from around the city, and new ventures now depend on the interest of their local neighbourhoods.

“Customers can help by just supporting locals and eating out as much as they can. I understand this could be more expensive than cooking at home but if they don’t, they will lose some of their favourite restaurants,” said Jonathan Mishaev, owner of Limon Restaurant on Queen Street East.

Limon is a new restaurant opened on Oct. 22, by Mishaev and his brother Benjamin. The brothers closed a restaurant they had been running for six years to focus on their new spot.

“When the pandemic hit, we saw an increase in units available and found a perfect location and building (in) the Beaches. We didn’t want to lose the opportunity, so we agreed to sign the lease,” Mishaev said.

As winter approaches and coronavirus case numbers increasing in Toronto, offering outdoor dining at a patio is not an option for these restaurants.

“Just with everything going on, we decided, it would be best to just go back to take out,” McMillan said.

These new businesses are offering pick-ups and delivery through Uber Eats, DoorDash and Skip the Dishes.

“The positive in all of it is that our customers will now know that our food is very take-out friendly,” Mishaev said.

“We plan on just building our business one customer at a time,” he said.