Many people seem to think that restaurants have found the answer to dealing with COVID-19 in the form of opening outside patios.
For one restaurant on the Danforth, this is not the case.
For Danforth Avenue restaurant Mezes, having the patio open actually caused more stress and issues than keeping it closed.
“This current lockdown has been devastating, exhausting, to everyone,” Mezes owner Vasha Zindros said. “This time last year, we probably would’ve committed to the outdoor patio allowed by the city, but truthfully, we couldn’t muster the energy, or spend the money it would’ve needed to work.”
Meze’s has a small patio to begin with—only four tables, with 12 people allowable with distancing guidelines.
“To service those seats, we ran the risk of the cold entering [the restaurant] and affecting takeout prepared for pickup which, until dining rooms reopen, is our sustenance,” Zindros said. “And I worried about the strain on our staff of serving outside in sub-zero temperatures.”
In short, “it just didn’t feel right for us, and the challenges of preparing a comfortable patio in January were just too considerable to justify the added stress on our team.”
With restaurants like Meze’s not opening outdoor patios, some patrons have had to change their eating-out routines.
Some locals have resorted to using takeout apps, but for customers like Maria Papadopalous, outdoor patios would have been preferable.
“With the lockdown restrictions in place, I loved using the different patios along the Danforth. It was a way for me to get out. It did take me off guard to see Mezes not using their patio,” Papadopalous said. “But with the changing weather and COVID casing rises, it makes sense for them to do so. I found other ways to support them, such as their takeout option.”
The secret ingredient
With outdoor patios being out of the question, COVID-19 has forced Zindros into changing and adapting the restaurant style into ways she never expected to before.
“The pivot to a takeout model was very difficult for us,” she said. “We’d resisted participating in the takeout apps, before the pandemic, primarily because we really believe the experience of dining with us, at our table, served by the family we’ve become, was the secret ingredient of our menu.”
At the end of lockdowns, she hopes people are left with a permanent appreciation for the small businesses that define our city, “and that they know how imperative their continued support is as we recover,” she said. “Every door that remains open to serve its neighbours has suffered more deficit and difficulty than can be conveyed.”
Mezes has managed to successfully adapt to COVID-19, but hopes to return to normal, so they can do what they do best: serving customers in person.