La Prep Pushes Forward

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Despite COVID-19 looming large over the industry, the upscale bistro-style restaurant chain La Prep is pressing on, with some of its restaurants staying open in hospitals to serve free coffee and pastries to frontline workers.

On March 23, the chain began offering complimentary coffee and fresh pastries to physicians, nurses and other healthcare workers at its locations in Rouge Valley Centenary Hospital in Scarborough, Ont., Women’s College Hospital in Toronto and Joseph Brant Hospital in Burlington, Ont.

While those hospital locations are staying open, the brand’s nine corporate stores have been shuttered.

Naveen Seth, CEO of La Prep, says while the pandemic is having a financial impact on every industry, keeping the hospital locations is not about making money, but giving back.

“The focus right now is not to make money. The focus is to provide support to the staff at these hospitals. They’re putting their lives on the line for us; they’re working so hard to make things better for all of us so the least we can do [is give] them a free coffee or snack while they’re working so hard,” says Seth. “It’s important to stand by and help the community.”

While food safety is always a priority at La Prep, food-handling efforts have been ramped up in response to COVID-19, says Seth, adding the operation has become even more focused on health and safety during this crisis.

“We’ve always believed in running a clean operation, making everything fresh and wearing gloves at all times. Now with [COVID-19] we’ve cut down on the amount of food we’re preparing and trying to [offer] food that requires the least amount of preparation and hand touching. The staff are wearing gloves and sanitizing on a regular basis,” says Seth, who notes that this kind of pandemic and its strain on business is unprecedented in our era, and “companies are navigating foreign waters in dealing with it.”

“This is something never before experienced,” he says. “We’re working internally and with different banks to see how we can work and get through this difficult time. We’re keeping in touch with our staff to ensure they’re all taken care of.”

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