sara rasa toronto restaurants

Toronto restaurants cancel takeout service over frustration with lockdown restrictions

Two Toronto restaurants are halting their takeout service out of frustration with lockdown restrictions that never seem to stop changing.

Adrian Niman, founder of hospitality group The Food Dudes, consulted with his exasperated team at Sara and Rasa, and they made the choice collectively to suspend takeout at both restaurants, at least while the current lockdown is on.

And since they are also not offering delivery, all operations at both restaurants are temporarily suspended.

"I'm really frustrated at this point. The whole thing just doesn't make sense," Niman tells blogTO.

"We looked at what we had in our bank account, and our staff that don't want to do takeout, and we made a decision," he says. 

Notices were posted to the Instagram accounts of both Rasa and Sara letting people know they'd be temporarily closing for takeout.

He points out the apparent hypocrisy many have noticed when it comes to big box stores and chains like Ikea being able to open to customers, Starbucks allowing more people to stand in line inside than were briefly recently allowed on outdoor patios.

Niman's quick-service restaurants Blondies and Pantry are still open, but he points out that the staff at the pizza and cafeteria-style spot are more accustomed to running a take-out business.

The 48 hours notice Sara and Rasa were given to reopen their patios wasn't enough time to get the restaurants ready. Bringing back a team, cleaning the restaurant top to bottom, restocking PPE, making sure all accounts are up to date and on top of all that talking to suppliers, farmers and butchers is a 10 to 14 day process.

Niman and his chefs put together menus, researching, developing and tasting everything in anticipation of reopening for Mar. 31. It was around then they started hearing rumours of another lockdown.

Niman says he remembers thinking, "There's no way they're going to shut back down the restaurants."

The next day, a lockdown on restaurant patios was official, and he says it was "like a dagger to the heart ... more importantly to our staff." They decided to hold a team meeting and let them make a decision.

"They were all just very defeated," says Niman.

"Quick-service people like the hours and schedule better. When you decide to be a restaurant chef you're giving up a lot of your social life. There's a lot of pride that goes behind this food that's meant to be eaten in front of us and we've been shoving it in a takeout box."

Niman has deployed multiple "pivoting" concepts throughout the pandemic, and will continue to do so if necessary, saying Sara and Rasa will survive no matter what.

"We followed all the rules. We did what we were told to do and we were still shut down," Niman says. "My heart breaks for the ones that have only one restaurant or new restaurants not able to take advantage of subsidies." 

"Whatever happens 28 days from now we're going to have to adapt. They say 28 days, but we've all heard that before."

Lead photo by

Jesse Milns

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