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Restaurants struggle in the time of Covid-19

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Restaurants face an uncertain future as takeout and delivery meals were suspended last night.

The services had replaced in-house dining after restrictions to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic were imposed. Service was limited to takeout on March 22 as the number of cases of Covid-19 started to climb.

But tougher restrictions unveiled yesterday by David Burt, the Premier, will lead to a two-week lockdown, including the end of takeout and deliveries, from Saturday.

Owners at three restaurants this week said they had mounted a battle to preserve jobs and come up with new menus.

Giovanna Easton, one of the owners of the Specialty Inn in Smith's, said the restaurant had always been “a social spot”.

Ms Easton said: “In the mornings especially, we have older people come in, police, so many groups.

“Now we don't have that at all. Staff have had hours cut. “We've had to lay off a few people.

“But at least the doors are still open and there's still some money coming in. Our motto is, we're family. We're going to work together.”

She was speaking before the “Great Bermuda Takeout Day”, organised for today by the Bermuda Tourism Authority.

Ms Easton said she and other management figures had been “very creative with our menu, trying to keep our chefs employed”.

She added staff had hoped the 8pm curfew, which had been “stressful for everyone”, would not get extended.

Ms Easton explained Specialty Inn had experienced a rush of evening customers just before the curfew kicked in.

However, the curfew has now been extended to Saturday — with a state of emergency to follow and residents confined to their homes.

Ms Easton said one of the restaurant's takeout innovations this week had been “pizza kits”, which could be used as an activity for parents who were home schooling children, and that they had sold “really well”.

Ms Easton added hot cross bun kits would also be launched.

She said: “Nobody enters the restaurant. We have three people taking orders by phone and we're wiping things down and sanitising every 20 or 30 minutes.

“We have to be creative. We've come together and we're being as positive as possible with this.”

Mstira Weeks, the co-owner of FryDays in Hamilton, said times were “really tough — we just renovated”.

Ms Weeks added the restaurant, which just opened an area for parties, was “only doing takeout, with minimum staff”.

She said: “We're rotating staff so that everyone can get some hours. We're just trying to adapt to what I hope is this temporary new norm.”

Ms Weeks added that family packages of takeaway had been put together to give people stuck at home “some bang for their buck”.

She said: “Constantly, every day, we're thinking up new ways to keep up with this.

“What's scary is the longer we are out of the norm, this becomes the norm. As businesses, we have to be creative to have an income coming in.

“The main thing is being careful with how much you innovate — does the business go back it its old state if we do go back to normal?”

Ms Weeks added that orders went out on the Sargasso delivery app.

She said other new ideas included a competition for a $20 gift certificate and plans to give away a dinner for four for “a family in need”.

Ms Weeks added, although FryDays specialised in takeout, restrictions on restaurants had increased competition in the delivery market.

She said she was also watching the curfew, which forced FryDays to shut half an hour earlier in the week and would cut deeper into the businesses' longer weekend hours if extended.

Ms Weeks added: “Small businesses really feel it the most. But people are trying to support me, knowing businesses need extra help.

“It's nice to see. At this time, we need to come together as a country.”

Kris Furbert, the owner of the Bermuda Pie Company in St George, said he launched free delivery for April to residents in St George's and St David's.

Mr Furbert said his company had been pushed into deliveries earlier than expected, but the service had offset the drop in sales from the company's window service. He added: “This will really help us during these unsure times; we're trying to push that.”

Mr Furbert said frozen pies for order or collection were another new product designed to appeal to families stuck at home.

He added his staff of two cashiers and one chef were “a little on edge”.

Mr Furbert said: “We're really grateful people in St George's have continued supporting us.

“Our numbers have dropped, but I hope this takeout day will encourage more people to come and try us — we also sell local fish and we do really good hamburgers.”

Mr Furbert added: “If I don't make sales, I have to shut down. This is everything. It's not just a hobby — it supports me completely.”

Today's event marks a last hurrah for restaurants before the two-week shutdown starts at the weekend,

The public were asked to share BTA's social posts on #GreatBermudaTakeoutDay and post their food experiences.

Service with a smile: Jackie Jordan, of Speciality Inn on South Road, Smith's hands out food to a customer (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Still open: Speciality Inn on South Road, Smith's (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Service with a smile: Speciality Inn on South Road. Jackie Jordan, front, and Speciality Inn co-owner and manager Fabio Divuolo hand out food to a customer (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published April 02, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated April 02, 2020 at 7:23 am)

Restaurants struggle in the time of Covid-19

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