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How CRAFT Beer Market is Adjusting to Reopen Post-Lockdown

Cities and provinces across Canada are easing restrictions and restaurants are reopening to offer dine-in service. In fact, the city of Toronto recently announced it’s move into stage two, joining many of the other cities in the GTA and in Ontario.

Things are moving fast and require quick turnaround adoption. Especially as different provinces reopen at different times and at different speeds. The team at CRAFT Beer Market knows this well.

“Each province has their own guidelines on health and safety measures, and each province has their own way of announcing re-openings,” explains AJ Park, General Manager of CRAFT Beer Market, Toronto. “I think the biggest challenge is getting information very late and having to react quickly. Business cannot turn on a dime and the bigger the restaurant the more preparation is needed.”

The CRAFT Beer Market opened the doors to their first location in Calgary’s Beltline neighbourhood in June of 2011. Since then they have grown to 7 locations across Canada including restaurants in Vancouver, Edmonton, Ottawa, Toronto, Kelowna, and a second location in Calgary.

In March, as the country went into quarantine, CRAFT Beer Market made the decision to close all of their locations. Between April 15 to May 13 they reopened all of our locations for curbside pick up and delivery.

CRAFT Beer Market, Toronto location

As of June 2020, six of their other locations across Canada, including Ottawa, are now reopen for business and have received good response from guests. Their Toronto location is set follow suit.

Located in the Financial District, the Toronto location has a 3000 sq. ft. outdoor beer garden which is ready to welcome back guests. “We have increased the size of our patio and implemented multiple health and safety measures,” say PJ L’Heureux, President and Founder of CRAFT Beer Market.

This patio space is imperative to CRAFT Beer Market’s Toronto reopening and recovery as they will operate at 50% capacity. “We are fortunate to have a large restaurant that is comparable in size to some grocery stores,” says L’Heureux. “That enables us to implement measures to maintain safe distances between guests while they are dining.”

Additionally, across all locations, every other table is kept open to ensure that social distancing measures are maintained. Restaurants have directional and social distancing floor decals, hand sanitizer is available on all tables, every other urinal is closed, and contactless payment options are offered.

Back of house also demands physical changes. Park elaborates: “In the kitchen, we made more room for prep, cooler protocol on people, and we try to staff in groups with less overlay. The line cannot change but we spaced out salad stations where possible.” He also notes that in already open establishments, they are conducting staff temperature checks at the beginning of each shift.

Lastly, CRAFT Beer Market is encouraging guests to view the menus digitally on their website and have also moved to a single use, recyclable paper menu for guests that prefer a physical copy.

As spoken about in our recent Rapid Recovery Series, staffing and labour have been top of mind for operators who have anticipated a struggle in ensuring staff are motivated and engaged to return to work.

Echoing many of the points that The Charcoal Group attributes to their success, Park explains that getting staff back into work has not been a pain point. “We had an amazing team leading into the crisis and our leaders were very transparent and were in constant communication with our team throughout our closures,” he says. “This led to most of our team returning and being very excited to get back to work.”

The team developed an internal COVID-19 specific training manual so upon returning to work, staff went into training to review new policies and procedures. “The hard part about this was you really need to treat each restaurant as a re-opening,” Park highlights. “We now have enhanced procedures. Health rules are changing by the day, so we need to ensure that communication is key and that our team buys into our protocols – why were are doing them, and that their safety is [priority number one]. If our team is safe and feels safe we know our guests will as well.”

Communicating safety procedures to guests in order to maintain consumer confidence is key for CRAFT Beer Market. Health and safety procedures and protocols are being “communicated in the restaurant with signage, by our team, on our social channels, and our website,” says Park. “We understand that people may be hesitant to dine out so we want them to feel comfortable and we are here when they are ready. You can check out the “Safety Promise” highlights on our Instagram.”

While (unfortunately) no one has a crystal ball to provide an outlook on the future, and for many operators, it’s still too early to determine how dine-in service is being received by customers, the team at CRAFT Beer Market is bolstered by the support and trust they have experienced by their community.

“We want to thank our loyal guests for their support and trust in us while we adjust to the new demands our industry faces,” states L’Heureux. L’Heureux continues: “We understand that there is a lot of uncertainty for people as we navigate the new normal and we are here whenever people are ready to dine out again.”

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