Shifting Restaurant Spotlight: Rick's Good Eats
The pandemic has had far-reaching effects on almost every aspect of our lives, including food and business. Restaurant owners all across the city have had to change up their operations to adapt to these unprecedented times.
We reached out to Rick Matharu, owner of popular Mississauga restaurant Rick’s Good Eats, to hear how the pandemic affected his business and how he’s shifted his business to handling it:
Q: Can you tell us a bit about your restaurant?
Rick: Rick’s Good Eats was created as an ode to the immigrant experience. Flavours from my childhood meld with our passion for comfort food classics that evoke a feeling of nostalgia. Its Punjabi-Canadian fusion food done with bold and vibrant flavours in a home style.
Q: How has your restaurant been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Rick: The restaurant and hospitality industry has been the hardest hit in this pandemic and we are right in there. In early March we started taking precautions but when the announcements came to have the dining rooms closed, we knew it was going to be really tough to stay open.
As a family business we decided to shut down completely rather than do takeout for the first six weeks of this lockdown. We felt like we had a responsibility to our community we love, the government and health care professionals asking us to stay home, and our incredible team to keep them all safe. In a matter of days I had to lay off so much of my staff, have every catering event we had booked cancelled for the next four months, every festival we planned to be in this summer shut down, and all our projects for renovating and expanding come to a halt with no idea about the future. This has been insanely hard.
Q: How has your business shifted its business model to adapt to the pandemic?
Rick: We've always treated Rick’s Good Eats' policies like the ones we, as consumers, want to see in place. With a reduced staff, raised prices of grocery and lowered capacity, we had to adapt to the takeout only model. We felt cheated by the food delivery apps that were taking such a huge cut from restaurants while not even realistically increasing their precautions to the pandemic. We knew we had to take charge and take our business into our own hands, so we started to design a new system for ourselves.
We built a new website that allows customers to pre-order and pay online. They can designate a pickup slot that we offer to a limited amount of people so traffic is controlled. We changed up our menu to reflect these changes, creating and scaling new recipes that could be taken home and made whenever it was convenient for our customers. We saw that people were cooking at home and are now offering our staple sauces and spices to pick up and use at home. We implemented a limited menu of our hot and ready to eat favourites to grab even without pre-ordering. We installed tap payment methods and rearranged the entire restaurant to create space to safely physical distance. We invested into new packaging systems and equipment to keep our staff and customers safe, minimizing contact and heightening sanitation protocols.
Anything we could think of to show our amazing customers and staff that we are taking this seriously and are doing our best to make this an easy and stress-free way of grabbing the good eats.
Q: What advice would you give fellow restaurant owners during this time?
Rick: Think outside the box. It is important not to get discouraged. This is the time to reinvent yourself and try new things. Try takeout boxes, kits, meal plans. Reach out to your customers and let them know what you have been up to. Be more active on social media because everyone is on it so this is the time to engage with your audience. Do the things you have been wanting to do in your restaurant like deep cleaning, organizing your kitchen, getting some updated menus, re-branding the logo or posters in-store. This is the time to be doing all of this because things will come back to normal soon.
Q: What would you say was the hardest part of adapting to the pandemic?
Rick: Honestly, the bottom line. Seeing all my bills go out and no money coming in. I knew I had to change the whole concept around in order to survive. Investing in our new business model was the top priority and making sure we could quickly and safely open. This is also from the responsibility I feel towards my team, who have helped bring Rick’s Good Eats to life and now knowing they rely on me for their work and livelihood that was hit so hard from the pandemic.
Q: How do you think this might change your restaurant/service even once the pandemic is over?
Rick: People always love eating out - that will never change. Dine-in experiences will be different and will take some time for people to adapt. The popularity of take-out meals I think is here to stay. People are cooking more at home, so more meal kits to take home and make with family. I think it will take Hospitality some time to get back to what it was because we cannot bring back all of our staff as it won't be as busy. The effect of having less staff on-hand may mean longer wait times for food or a restructuring of how food is served but safety will be of the upmost importance.
Q: What are some hard lessons you’ve learned from this experience?
Rick: Never take things for granted and always have a backup plan. I know a lot of people that have a business that were spending money and not saving. When a hard day/week/month hits, you can face it yourself without losing everything you have. Make sure you are running your business as a tight ship and everything is up to date and done properly. Don’t push yourself too hard that you can’t manage what you are doing. Focus on your craft and excel at it with 100% and don’t spread yourself too thin. Don’t water down your food. Don’t neglect customer service. Do everything in your power to make it the BEST restaurant in the world. Customers will see that and spread the word for you. All you have to do is focus on your craft and do it genuinely from the heart.
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