Toronto’s hospitality industry has been hit hard by COVID-19, as the city’s top medical officer on March 16 urged establishments to shut their doors to help prevent community transmission of the virus. It’s the right thing to do, of course. Some restaurants are taking it a step further, using small gestures to assist their communities and staff. Here’s a quick look at what some are doing:
Celebrity chef Mark McEwan’s restaurant empire temporarily shut its doors last week, and donated all perishables to the Daily Bread Food Bank. The restaurant group’s grocery wing, McEwan Fine Foods, remains open, and is offering a 15 per cent discount on online orders placed throughout the month of March. The store is also limited to seniors (who also get a 10 per cent discount) for the first hour of opening.
Over in the west end, neighbourhood pub The Dizzy is offering free meals to individuals or families who are struggling with financial insecurity — no questions asked. Individuals can reach out to the restaurant directly, or via Instagram, to arrange for assistance.
The Dutch eatery on the Danforth is helping to support its staff during the shutdown by selling off fridge inventory on a pay-what-you-want basis. The owners intend to keep offering takeout specials on weekends.
Cherry St. BBQ
Due to its Port Lands location, Cherry St. is a local fave of film and television industry professionals, many of whom have lost work due to production shutdowns. As a result, the BBQ restaurant is offering a 20 per cent discount on pick-up orders to industry folks.
The Geary Ave. pasta mainstay is remaining open as a retail-only operation, and is offering bags of maltagliati — essentially, the scraps and offcuts from regular pasta production — for free to anyone who is struggling with food scarcity. Customers are encouraged to grab a bag of the noodles (which are, frankly, still exceptionally beautiful) for a neighbour or friend while purchasing their own order, to cut down on foot traffic into the store.
The pie joint (which has Matty Matheson to thank in part for its recipes) is reaching out directly to frontline staff (healthcare professionals such as nurses, paramedics, and doctors), offering them a free small pizza for pickup or delivery. Non-frontline individuals can take advantage of Maker’s curbside pickup or delivery by downloading the restaurant’s app.
Paramount Fine Foods
Paramount founder Mohamed Fakih is no stranger to stepping up to the plate to serve his community in times of need, and now is no exception: his Middle Eastern fast-casual chain is offering 50 per cent off to frontline workers when they place a takeout order at any of Paramount’s locations across the GTA and beyond.
The Gerrard Street eatery isn’t offering a discount on product rather, staff are available to run errands for community members who are unable to access essentials. The restaurant has posted an email address on Instagram that can be contacted for assistance.
Ascari & Gare de L’Est
The Table 17 restaurant group, which includes Italian joints on Queen East and King West and an east-end French bistro, are donating 50 per cent of gift certificate sales while the restaurant itself is closed to staff who are unable to work due to the lockdown.
Like many temporarily shuttered restos in Toronto, Greta Solomon’s is asking would-be customers to purchase gift certificates to be used when they’re once again able to welcome diners. Here, the purchase of a certificate does more than guarantee you a delicious future meal: Five per cent of each sale will be donated to Red Door Family Shelter.
Three’s a trend: 75 per cent of gift certificate sales will be donated to staff at this games-oriented bar on College.
Another bar that has its staff in mind, CRAFT will be donating 100 per cent of all gift card proceeds to team members, and customers who buy cards with a value of greater than $25 will receive a bonus $10 certificate to use once CRAFT’s doors re-open. Could there be any better reason to put yourself in a room with more than 100 beer taps?
Last Thursday, this Danforth diner offered PWYC “breakfast for dinner,” with all proceeds going towards prepared meals for families who are in isolation, or otherwise unable to access food during the crisis. (Diners truly stepped up to the plate: Hollandaise was able to prepare meals for more than 40 families.) The restaurant hopes to hold the dinner again this coming week.
Though they’ve since closed their doors during the crisis, a few restaurants deserve a shout-out for their community outreach efforts.
Until Kingston Road mainstay Fearless Meat closed its doors to diners on Sunday, the restaurant was offering a free six-ounce burger or breakfast sandwich and coffee to seniors, pensioners and veterans throughout the duration of the COVID crisis.
And before they were forced to temporarily shutter, Parkdale’s Skyline Restaurant was selling prepared meals on a pay-what-you-can basis to community members in need. Skyline shut its doors on Friday, after a full day of PWYC goodness.