Interview With Paul Marshall By Amy Bostock
What have been the immediate impacts to your restaurant since COVID-19 first hit, when government made it mandatory to shut down business?
The immediate impact to our businesses has been a complete mess, to be honest. We have more than one location and are currently building our third restaurant. Our downtown location was closed immediately, allowing our employees to register for EI as quickly as possible so they could be taken care of. Our Dupont Street location lost about 80 per cent of its revenue and all our staff were laid-off, so the impact was immediate and hard to say the least.
Did you have to lay off any staff?If so, how many?
Unfortunately, we had to lay off all of our staff, about 25 in total.
Were you able to pivot to takeout and delivery or other different revenue streams?
We’ve always had a good takeout business and have worked hard on that part of our Love Chix brand since opening. Fortunately for our Dupont location, our community has always supported us and, since the pandemic and immediate
closures of hospitality, takeout has been busier than ever. But we had to find a larger source of revenue because we all know delivery apps take 30 per cent of your sales. We introduced our Bodega so we could help our community get access to fresh food without the lineups, as well to develop a new revenue stream for the business.
What was your strategy?
Our strategy for our Love Chix Dupont location really adapted and we changed it into a Bogeda-style restaurant that offers fresh-produce boxes, dairy, dry goods, marinated meats and alcohol, in addition to our takeout menu. We needed to adapt and change our business to try and stay afloat when many other businesses were shutting down. It was also a chance to help out our community. We wanted to do our part. It’s had a positive response throughout our community.
What have the challenges and opportunities of this pivoting been?
The challenges of taking your business/brand and completely changing it to adapt is very hard and this will, unfortunately, be the demise of many restaurants. Entrepreneurs work day and night to create and bring their restaurants to life and, when you have to change all of a sudden, it’s extremely difficult. With the lack of money restaurants already struggle with, it makes for a very difficult transition to just change your brand into a takeout/delivery restaurant. By the same note, this is where the opportunity to create something new comes in effect. It’s no secret many restaurants struggle, so with this crisis, it can give restaurants an opportunity to re-brand their businesses. For Love Chix, it’s given us the opportunity to grow and create another asset to our business that will help us create another source of income.
What lessons have you and your team learned through this process?
I’ve learned throughout this whole [crisis] that. no matter what happens in life, you need to adapt and push yourself. We worked very hard the first couple weeks to change our business and find a way to survive and the only way we managed it was by adapting to the daily changes and moving forward.
How do you anticipate your business may change moving forward?
The main issue is that every day there are changes, news reports and social-media posts about what’s going to happen next. When all the dust settles, it will be a very different world when it comes to the hospitality industry. Again, we’ll have to adapt our business to this new “normal,” whatever that may look like. Changing our business to a “serverless” business has been a discussion in the past couple weeks and I will likely be going down that path moving forward.
What’s your advice to other operators?
No matter what happens, life goes on. Whether people make it out of this or not, life is full of unbelievable challenges — both good and bad — but as long as people have their health and family, anything is possible. No matter the size of your restaurant, you need to adapt and change. This is going to give us a real opportunity to address the many issues facing this industry and we’ll all have to work together to solve these problems once we have the opportunity to do so.
During this time, we’ve seen a lot of companies and businesses step up to help the greater community. Have you introduced any initiatives on this front?
Love Chix is built on community. We don’t have many resources and, when finding ways to do our part, we felt we could best serve our community by helping them with daily groceries. When we decided to change to a grocery store, that was the best way we could help our community. Smaller lineups, quick pick-ups, call-in orders, et cetera…was the best way we could help keep our community safe. Our community has loved the transition and appreciates us trying to change our business to help support people. It’s given us a chance to actually survive this when all is said and done.