Natalie Saunders donated potatoes to 60 families

By: Michelle Poirier

Take-out and delivery have not been as lucrative as traditional sit-down service, so some restaurants are coming up with different ideas to generate income.

Burger Bandits, in Sutton, is looking to the past to find a solution for reopening their doors.

Natalie Saunders, the owner, has been working with Larry Gold, a restaurant consultant, to come up with creative ideas to reopen, and they decided on bringing back the drive-in diner, popularized in the 1940s through the 1960s.

Mr. Gold said that when things do reopen, occupancy rates could be down by 50 per cent.

“By utilizing the parking space in front of the restaurant as a dine-in area, she can serve up to six cars outside, which can have anywhere from one to six diners each,” he said. “That makes up for the 20 seats she’s losing inside.”

Burger Bandits doors shut a week into the province-wide lockdown after a surge of business cleared out their meat stock, which the suppliers could not replenish.

“(The federally funded business loan) is the only reason why I’m reopening, because I wasn’t making enough to sustain the business,” she said.

Ms. Saunders does not have an official reopening date set, she is planning to do a soft curbside opening and then launch the full drive-in dining service once her friend has completed the food trays and her parking signs have come in.

Ms. Saunders is not worried and knows the community will support her when they reopen. She said every time she checks on the store; she has 20 to 30 messages from people reaching out.

The only thing that could stop a plan like this is the restaurant’s lease agreement; but she has the okay from her landlord to move forward with the idea.

“It is in the interest of the landlords to make sure that their tenants survive; otherwise, we’re going to have a lot of “For Lease” signs,” Mr. Gold said.

Vee Palenchuk, co-owner of The Corner House Bistro, was able to make May rent thanks to the federally funded business loan and has also applied for the wage subsidy to keep her staff employed.

They are offering delivery in Keswick and pick up at the restaurant, every Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening.

To raise revenue, they have started selling grocery packs to their customers, which you can order online. They offer simple produce packs, barbecue packs, breakfast packs and others.

Corner Bistro grocery pack

“We’re doing okay. But it’s a struggle. We are keeping the lights on, and that’s our main goal right now. If we can break even, then we will be able to reopen, that’s what we hope and pray for,” said Ms. Palenchuck, who’s had amazing support from the community.

The Corner House Bistro is also giving back with soup donations. They take proceeds from the sales of their soup of the day, and every week donate soup and bread to Sandgate Women’s Shelter, Hospice Georgina and some families in Georgina that need the extra help.

Chef Alan prepares soup donation for Sandgate

Ms. Saunders and Burger Bandit have also given back to the community. When they shut their doors, they were left with an abundance of Thompson Potatoes, so they donated all of the potatoes and helped 60 families, and in the past, they have always donated any leftover meat to families in need, the food banks and local shelters.

The Town of Georgina’s Economic Development team is working to support local businesses and keep them informed of their options.

They’re providing a grant of $10,000 to each of the three Business Improvement Areas (BIAs) — Jackson’s Point, Sutton and Uptown Keswick — to cover their 2020 annual budget, so that individual business owners don’t have to.

There’s also a grant program called the Georgina Emergency Response Benefit (GERB), which offers up to $7,500 in non-repayable funding to assist local business owners during the pandemic. To complete an application, visit southlakefutures.ca

They have also held zoom meetings, increased social media postings, sent bi-weekly emails to subscribers to keep them up to date, as well as offering free online training to help develop online sales platforms.

They are currently working on sector targeted marketing campaigns that will roll out over the summer to help local businesses with recovery efforts and are collaborating with the Chamber of Commerce to develop Shop Local Campaigns.

Local business owners can send an email to the Economic Development team at ed@georgina.ca for advice and assistance for business recovery.

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