Opinion: Selfish Burnaby diners demand ‘free’ food from struggling eateries

Chris Campbell

Let’s get one thing clear.

Many restaurants in Burnaby will not survive the next few months if conditions stay the way they are.

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Some of them have already closed or never reopened this summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

So when you go into a restaurant and something isn’t perfect, maybe think about that for a moment before you act like a diva and say you “aren’t paying” for the meal.

That’s what’s happening at many Burnaby restaurants during the pandemic, according to the owners and servers I’ve interviewed during the past few weeks.

“I remember one woman, she had eaten nearly the entire meal and then said, ‘the chicken is dry, I’m not paying for it’,” one server explained to me earlier this week. “The place I work at is barely hanging on and someone wants to stiff us because it wasn’t perfect. That feels awful.”

And the people I spoke with say it’s not because there’s a hair in the food or there’s a cleanliness complaint or something is burnt and not edible. It’s more the person didn’t like the food as much as they’d hoped for, so they demand they not be charged.

I get that this is a tricky issue. Pre-pandemic, fine, be like that. But as the server above says, these restaurants are on the financial edge. They have likely had to cut back on staff, which can impact the experience. Perhaps the quality isn’t quite where it was pre-pandemic. Are your culinary feelings really worth taking income away from a restaurant and a server at this perilous time?

I don’t think it is.

restaurant restaurants covid covid-19 mask masks server servers

These servers and owners care. They really do. They are working even longer hours than they did before COVID to survive and they are absolutely committed to the happiness of customers.

Maybe remember that and suck it up a little.

The recent Canadian Survey on Business Conditions (CSBC), produced by Statistics Canada with support from the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, found that 31% of these businesses will only able to remain operational for up to 90 days with distancing measures in effect. In other words, up to a whopping 60% of the industry could fail within three months.

Report author Harrison Ruess, Public Affairs Officer for the CCC, notes that the figures are particularly concerning since, "83% of businesses in the accommodation and food services industries temporarily closed and two-thirds were forced to lay off some staff due to COVID. According to Restaurants Canada, the food service industry lost 800,000 jobs."

Business is down 20% to 30%, according to Ian Tostenson, president and CEO of the BC Restaurant and Foodservices Association.

Patio season helped, but now the rainy weather has come back.

An increase in food deliveries has helped the industry stay afloat. However, according to Tostensen, the commission that delivery apps like Skip the Dishes and DoorDash charge can be anywhere from 25% to 30%. Tostenson explained that this often means that the restaurant isn’t making any money at all. The restaurant industry is hoping that the provincial government will follow the lead of U.S. cities like Seattle and San Francisco which have capped these commission fees at 15% for six months.

These are some pretty dire numbers. Please try and remember this when you go out for a meal.

  • With files from Business in Vancouver.

Follow Chris Campbell on Twitter @shinebox44.

 

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