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Restaurants near the Toronto Eaton Centre say lockdowns and convoys are killing sales

As a surge of events hits downtown Toronto, there’s one thing not a lot of people have on their mind: the restaurants in the area.

Convoy troubles are just the latest set of wacky current events to affect restaurants in the city’s downtown core, especially around the Eaton Centre.

Along with issues every other restaurant is facing like rising costs and understaffing, they have to deal with a reduction in customers thanks to offices and theatres being closed, meaning there’s little foot traffic.

Hendriks opened at the Toronto Eaton Centre in 2018. They had an average of 500 customers a night prior to lockdowns, which was sliced in half to 250 during lockdowns.

After the most recent lockdown, they’re now averaging 75 customers a night.

“The problem is that there are fewer shoppers at the Eaton Centre because more people are shopping online. All the surrounding offices and banks are closed with people reluctant to go back to the offices,” Hendriks owner George Bozikis tells blogTO. 

“Ryerson and U of T are closed for students, with many also not eating out as much. For most of the pandemic, theatres and concert halls have been closed.”

Meanwhile, at Hendriks the liquor costs have gone up by about 15 per cent, food costs are up by about 25 per cent, affected by supply chain issues.

This also means people are finding restaurants like Hendriks too expensive to dine at. Bozikis finds any government subsidies don’t come in time to cover costs like this as well as rent and payroll.

“We can’t find enough staff for servers, bartenders, managers, kitchen managers and line cooks,” says Bozikis. “The servers we do hire are rushly trained and this affects the customers as well.”

Protests planned for this weekend will only continue to crush restaurants like Hendriks.

“People stay away from the downtown area when there are protests, and the city will surely close off roads and sections of the Toronto for police presence, so people who don’t want to deal with traffic and the protests will just stay home,” says Bozikis.

“It’s a domino effect, really, the overall economy is affected with the downtown core the hardest hit area in all of Canada.”

Nearby Bannock opened in 2011 near Queen and Bay, was renovated right before lockdowns, and then was shuttered for wave after wave of them. They took the opportunity to recently rebrand as Sap.

Before lockdowns, they’d get 200 to 300 people for their lunch and dinner services.

“As the downtown core was fairly quiet through the lockdowns we didn’t reopen until 2021 and things were very, very different,” Ryan Lister, who joined the Sap management team in October 2021, tells blogTO.

“With lockdowns affecting the office tower capacities coupled with construction on Queen St., we have struggled to see anywhere close to the pre pandemic guest counts. Hopefully in time this will pick up again.”

Like Hendriks, Sap has been affected not only by the lack of regular business from workers at offices and financial institutions, but also by restrictions on theatres, and as a tourist destination, on travel.

“I really hope that as travel restrictions lessen, sports open up again at Rogers Centre or Scotiabank Arena as well as the theatres reopening we will see more guests stopping by for a bite to eat,” says Lister.

His concerns about costs echo those of Bozikis as well, with what he says are 50 to 100 per cent increases in the cost of meat, poultry, vegetables and dry goods. The cost of the takeout supplies and PPE they need to stay open keeps increasing as well.

Both Bozikis and Lister say that the increase in minimum wage has been part of the struggle their restaurants have been experiencing.

“Though we feel confident we can be creative and smart with how to save on costs, it is definitely unsettling and tough right now, that’s for sure,” says Lister.


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