Business good in deliveries: sit-down service not so much

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

(Caution: the information in this story was valid at the time of writing, but may have changed by the time you read it.)

Business got a lot worse in some areas as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic spread closer to home. One area that experienced growth, however, was in food deliveries. With many people confined to their homes, and some restaurants not welcoming sit-down business for the time being, home deliveries became much more popular.

At Slave Lake’s Boston Pizza, for example, owner Tyler Warman announced on March 17 it was down to takeout and deliveries. Asked if he’d be putting on more drivers than usual, he said, “absolutely.”

Alimo’s Pizzeria was already on the ground running with its new online ordering app. While business was down generally last week, the percentage of it done by delivery was also going up day by day, said co-owner Ali Mouallem.

“No personal contact,” he says, speaking of the advantage of the system, which requires online payment by credit card. That way, the deliverer can let the customer know online when the order is dropped off and they don’t need to interact in person. Reducing virus spread wasn’t the reason when the system was adopted, Mouallem says, but it sure is working out nicely. Later in the week, the restaurant announced a further measure, called ‘curbside pick-up.’ This is for the takeout service. Nobody has to enter the store; food is brought out while you wait in your vehicle, having ordered online or over the phone and been given an estimated time of pick-up.

Kentucky Fried Chicken was getting into deliveries as well – something completely new for KFC. It started at 4:00 p.m. on March 17 and people were also being encouraged to order online.

TAs Asian Grill continues to do deliveries, says co-owner Tom Bidart. The restaurant is still open for sit-down business, but per provincial restrictions, can’t take more than 50 people. Bidart expects takeout and delivery to become a bigger part of the business for the next while.

At Mr. Mike’s, manager José Diaz said on Wednesday he was looking into starting a delivery service, anticipating that sit-down service would not survive. A few hours later he called back to say the decision was made. Takeout and delivery only for the time being.

Hotel Northern Star, which just recently launched its East Indian menu, has had to pull way back. Manager Ashish Arora says only the bar remains open for food service, and that with a limited amount of seating. Most food service is takeaway, but deliveries are available as well.

“We can do delivery,” he said. “We are able to.”

Toniroz Grill – the Filipino restaurant in Slave Lake – was down to takeout and delivery when we called on Thursday.

The Slave Lake A&W has “talked about” doing deliveries, says owner Gordie Ferguson, “but logistically it’s very tough.” The eating-in option was stopped in the middle of last week, but people can still enter to pick up their orders, or do it via the drive-through.

Very tough also for the Slave Lake Inn & Conference Centre to get into deliveries. Manager Colleen Chartrand said last week it’s being discussed, but a lot of the employees they have don’t have driver’s licenses. In the meantime, takeout and sit-down services are (or were at the time of writing) still available.

Carlos Restaurant downtown is doing a lot of takeout and delivery. Adam Mouallem says he’d prefer orders to be picked up, because there are problems with delivery, but as of now the service is offered. So was sit-down service at press time, but he was expecting that to be shut down by the province before long.

At Fix Coffee Bar & Bakery in downtown Slave Lake, the decision had already been made as of mid-last-week to stop sit-down service. Delivery was available for larger orders and the takeout was going. A day later, the shop was closed altogether.

Mary Brown’s chicken also got into the delivery game last week. Owner Linda Mughal said it’s only after 4:00 p.m., due to staffing, and works like this; payment is by e-transfer, the food is left on your front doorstep and the deliverer will stick around until you come out and pick it up. As of Thursday at about noon, sit-down service in the restaurant was no longer offered.

Tim Hortons (the corporation, not the local store), in announcing a suspension of sit-down services, also said “deliveries where available.” But the Slave Lake Tims will not be doing that – at least not for the time being, The Leader was told.

Something new: one of several new delivery services added last week.
The boss is in, but he doesn’t have much company. Boston Pizza would normally be packed in the middle of the day, but reduced to takeout and delivery status the parking lot was pretty bare when we passed by last Thursday.

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