For over 15-years, my job has entailed dining out up to 6-nights a week and writing about Toronto’s vibrant food and restaurant scene.
In the months before the outbreak, there was a marked increase in restaurant launches–an average of 15 new arrivals per week, in addition to a rise in closures. So working on my weekly Open/Closed column–the most comprehensive listing of restaurant openings in the city–on top of reporting on breaking news and events, writing regular features, conducting interviews, etc., increased my work hours dramatically.
Mid-March, news of the pandemic unfolded and the foodservice industry had to pivot–numerous times in just a few days–to find new operational solutions while adhering to ever-changing mandates and figure out how to keep the doors open while people were ordered to stay home.
As places shuttered, others scrambled to launch new takeout and delivery options. Some businesses that previously closed came back with new options and formats. In a matter of days, various bars and restaurants transformed into boutique wine shops, grocery stores and neighbourhood bodegas, while new grocers and food shops debuted to help meet demand. Weeks later, the industry’s need to constantly revamp in order to stay afloat, continues on a daily basis.
There’s been a lot to communicate in a brief period, so like most media, I’ve been working around the clock to try and cover it all. But I quickly realized: It’s impossible to keep up-to-date with who’s doing what right now, because IT. CHANGES. EVERY. DAY. People have launched campaigns to help, but they’re limited in their reach: Radio stations and online businesses have been offering free ad space for restaurants, but you have to be listening to that station or be on that platform or site. News outlets and blogs are running lists of certain restaurants offering takeout and/or delivery, but it excludes everyone else. Many diners are relying on delivery apps, but it still represents only a portion of businesses offering takeout and delivery, as not everyone can afford the high fees they charge. A slew of apps and sites have recently launched to promote takeout and delivery, but it means businesses have to sign up and the public has to go to an additional site or download yet another app. An organization just launched a campaign for takeout once a week, but these businesses depend on orders every day to possibly survive this crisis.
I kept thinking: How can I bring everyone together in one place without having to constantly update lists or download more apps?
So I created The Toronto Restaurants #TAKEOUTTORONTO #DELIVERYTORONTO Project to help people easily locate and support local restaurants and foodservice businesses offering takeout and delivery across social platforms including Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
Now my focus is to continue getting the word out on the project, encouraging both businesses and the public to use the hashtags #TAKEOUTTORONTO and #DELIVERYTORONTO; and take part in the Takeout/Delivery Challenge, in addition to covering all the extraordinary things people are doing across the city to help others right now.
It’s been six weeks since any of us have enjoyed a meal in a restaurant dining room and likely months before we’re all crowded into a bar, restaurant, or café again.
I can’t wait for the day we can all dine out again. Until then, we must do everything we can to save our local restaurants, bars, cafes, bakeries, breweries and food shops. Because without them, we are incomplete.
Founder, Toronto Restaurants