It will take three months for restaurants to get back to normal as Step 3 begins, Ottawa restaurateur says
OTTAWA — An Ottawa restaurateur suggests it will take three months for business to get back to normal at Ottawa restaurants following 16 months of COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions.
In the meantime, Stephen Beckta is urging people to have a “bit of patience” with waiters, waitresses, hostesses, chefs and restaurant staff when they go out for dinner.
Ottawa and Ontario entered Step 3 of the province’s COVID-19 reopening plan on Friday, allowing indoor dining to resume and lifting restrictions on the number of people sitting at a table indoors and on patios. The only restrictions for restaurants is physical distancing measures in place between tables, along with sanitation measures and mandatory face masks.
In an article in the Globe and Mail titled, “Indoor dining is back, but the staffs are not,” Beckta said, “Restaurants are trying really hard to return to what we used to be able to offer guests, but many businesses need a lot more people than we currently have.”
In an interview on CTV News at Six Saturday evening, Beckta said it will take time for restaurants to hire and train staff after the latest lockdown.
“It’s not like a bookstore where you can just open the doors and start selling books again. We have to design menus, prep food, bring our staff back, train them,” said Beckta.
“Contrary to a lot of popular belief, restaurant staff are just not sitting at home on CERB for the last 16 months. They went and found other jobs, they changed industries, they’ve gone off to do other things. Many of them are coming back, we’re getting hundreds of applications to work with us, but we need to hire and train carefully in order to make it to our standards.”
Beckta is the owner of the Beckta Group, which operates Beckta, Play food and wine and Gezellig restaurants.
“So, please I just ask all of the restaurant guests out there be patient, all of your favourite restaurants might not be open all the time just yet,” said Beckta. “It’s going to take us probably three months to get back to being able to open 14 services a week, and to be able to open patios and indoors at the same time.”
Beckta notes his restaurants had welcomed guests for dinner seven nights a week and five to seven weekly lunch or brunch offerings before the pandemic.
Several Ottawa businesses have been scrambling to hire staff ahead of the start of Step 3. Chef Michael Blackie of Next restaurant in Stittsville is offering a $400 incentive to new employees once hired, and additional incentives after they pass their probation.
CTV News at Six anchor Christina Succi asked Beckta if he believes restaurants will return to pre-pandemic business levels.
“I think so. I think it is all going to depend on is the third wave it or do we have a fourth wave, where do things go in terms of social distancing,” said Beckta.
“All the table distancing could be gone within three weeks from yesterday, the only thing that would be left is our mask mandates and our sanitation procedures, and if that’s the case then yes, absolutely.”
Beckta adds it will take customers and guests time to get back into the habit of going out again and know it is safe.
In the Globe and Mail article, Beckta urged restaurant professionals to “please come back to practise your art.”
The Ottawa restaurateur has a message for diners if they are planning to go out for lunch or dinner now that Ottawa is in Step 3.
“Just have a bit of patience that we may be a little bit rusty, it may take a little longer before you can get a Monday night reservation as opposed to a Saturday night reservation, and just be patient with all the staff who have been through so much through these last 16 months.”