Nova Scotia

Despite dire warnings, some Cape Breton restaurants doing better than expected

Although there are fears about the future of the restaurant industry, some Cape Breton restaurant owners say their summer is going better than expected.

From outdoor heating and eating to take-home meal kits, restaurant owners are getting creative

Salty Rose's and the Periwinkle Cafe has had fewer customers than usual. (Brittany Wentzell/CBC)

Many restaurant owners entered the summer of COVID-19 fearing the reduced capacity and a general urge to stay the blazes home would lead to a dire season, but some operators in Cape Breton, N.S., say the summer turned out better than expected. 

Sarabeth Drover is the co-owner of Salty Rose's and the Periwinkle Cafe in Ingonish. She and her family were visiting relatives in Australia earlier this year and got stuck there until July. With the help of her cousin and co-owner Caitlyn Purcell, Drover reopened her business in June, slightly later than normal. 

"We're in a unique position on the Cabot Trail because it is such a destination and I think whether it's locals or people from abroad or the rest of Canada, we're always going to have visitors, so this season has just kind of proved that," Drover told Information Morning Cape Breton.

The majority of visitors to the Cabot Trail usually come from outside of Atlantic Canada. But Drover said she's noticed many Maritimers travelling in the area and even a change in their behaviour.

She said instead of rushing to hit the Cabot Trail and then speed off to other destinations like Halifax, people are taking their time, having long lunches, and relaxing more.

But Drover is still down in revenue. The cafe is only open four days a week instead of seven. She's waiting to see what the fall season will be like without visitors taking in the Celtic Colours International Festival.

What happens when things cool down?

The cooler weather also has Ardon Moffard curious about what is to come this fall.

Moffard has owned Governor's Pub and Eatery in downtown Sydney for 28 years. Live music is a big part of the business. To accommodate capacity issues and still have music, Moffard expanded his beer garden outside of the restaurant, which can currently seat about 30 people inside. 

"We tented the beer garden and we're going to put some blow-in heaters in there for when the temperature drops so that we can continue to offer live entertainment," said Moffard.

Moffard has also noticed a change in his customers' behaviour. He said patrons seem to be more thoughtful when planning a night out and more understanding when it comes to getting a reservation.

Moffard is also a director of the Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia. He said many restaurant owners are getting creative to try to stay afloat.

Have you been going out to your favourite places to eat these days? We hear from three restaurant owners on how dining out has changed. 17:54

Scott Morrison, who owns Sydney's Flavor Downtown, Flavor 19, and Flavor on the Water, is one of those people. Morrison decided to drop prices in his restaurants to better compete with chains. Now he's looking at expanding his business model to sell DIY take-home meal kits.

Morrison believes even when the pandemic ends, taking food home will be the way of the future.

"I think you're going to see an increase in take out, people eating at home, choosing to pick up, I think you're going to really continue to see that," said Morrison.

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About the Author

Brittany Wentzell

Current Affairs Reporter/Editor

Brittany Wentzell is based in Sydney, N.S., as a reporter for Information Morning Cape Breton. She has covered a wide range of issues including education, forestry and municipal government. Story ideas? Send them to brittany.wentzell@cbc.ca

With files from Information Morning Cape Breton

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