online grocery toronto

Restaurants and cafes in Toronto keep transforming into online grocery stores

Restaurants, cafes, bars and other locals businesses in Toronto keep pivoting to bring groceries, produce, pantry and other essentials to their customers.

Jonah Creed, the owner of Creeds Coffee Bar and dry cleaning, launched a General Store and Market that offers “items that you would normally buy at an everyday grocery store that people that are having a hard time finding,” he says. These items are available for delivery or pickup.

Now you can get items like flour, sugar, yeast, and brown sugar because, Creed says, his store has a supply chain different from the one for most grocery stores.

“Grocery stores are running out of [certain] items,” Creed said. “Restaurants and grocery stores have different supply chains and so our supply chain has inventory, so we're able to buy that and sell it.”

“I realized that I was able to get the items that our clients and customers couldn't get and be able to supply them in an easy fashion, without [them] having to wait in line at a grocery store and having to wait three weeks for a click and collect order,” Creed said.

Sarah Baxter is co-owner of Annex brunch spot Chadwick’s, which launched Pantry by Chadwick’s, specializing in meal kits, housemade goods (such as sausages and guacamole and desserts), general groceries and produce, along with spices and alcohol. All these items are available for curbside pickup and delivery.

Baxter, like Creed, was motivated by a desire to provide an alternative way for people to get essential food supplies. Baxter says that she and Chadwick’s Chef Pablo decided to eschew the traditional take-out approach in favour of providing groceries and meal kits.

“It allowed us to try a concept we had been wanting to do for a while and combine that with offering people in the neighbourhood an alternative to shopping at a grocery store,” Baxter said.

“We are only doing the Pantry,” she added. “It keeps labour costs low and staff and customers safer having only two people here. Most of the time it’s just me.”

Both Baxter and Creed say that while sales now are not the same as they were before the pandemic, both are optimistic about the future of the services they're offering.

“Sales are nowhere near what we were doing before the crisis but it’s just Chef and I, with my husband doing the local deliveries so it’s keeping us busy and it’s paying some bills so that's good,” Baxter said.

“We have only been doing it for 10 days and it has been getting better every day. It’s been a pretty steep learning curve but we are getting the hang of it.”

Creed echoes Baxter’s sentiment of there being a learning curve.

“If this continues the way that it has been going, we'll be able to start calling some employees back to work, which is very important,” Creed said.

Creeds has been able to keep their delivery driver employed to deliver the groceries across the GTA. “And so we're utilizing our trucks and our driver who currently has time because our dry cleaning business is down as well,” he said.

Creeds is now able to deliver the next day because of this, he says. “And it’s free deliveries over $50 spent,” he added.

Chadwick’s Pantry now takes up the front room of the restaurant, Baxter said. “I have converted the front room that once had 10 seats into a little store.” Customers are able to call when they have arrived, and Baxter passes them their orders through the front window, she says.

“When we're able to reopen, I don’t think people will go back to the way they used to dine out,” she notes.

“We will rearrange the tables in the main dining area to give people more space. We will also have the patio which will make up for the lost seats inside. Once that happens we will offer the Pantry, traditional takeout and dine-in service. This way we can accommodate customers in whatever capacity they are comfortable with.”

But for the moment, the community around Chadwick’s is thrilled just to have them open. “They have been so supportive,” Baxter said. “I am deeply touched by all the support. I think everyone is having a lot of fun putting together their favourite Chadwick’s meals at home.”

And both Baxter and Creed say they are glad to be able to provide the community with an alternative that allows everyone more space and the opportunity to stay home and practice social distancing.

“We are in this together and together we will get through it,” Baxter said.

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