The Windsor-Essex County Regional Chamber of Commerce has partnered with Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island (TWEPI) and CUPE Local 543 to provide a $154,000 program to help local restaurants struggling with the pandemic closure.
"We all know that because of the pandemic and because of the long term condition, this particular sector has taken a huge hit," said chamber president Rakesh Naidu in a teleconferenced announcement Monday morning.
The program called DINE#YQG includes a website that lists local restaurants and has pictures featuring some of their meals and how to place an order.
The program also includes incentives such as a contest where patrons can win $100 for ordering local - the restaurant would win $1,000. There is also marketing help, free memberships in the chamber and the Ontario Restaurant Hotel Motel Association and subsidies for delivery service charges.
Local restaurants welcomed the help.
"We're trying to survive here, and so we take any help that we can get," said Mike Wetzel, co-owner of John Max Sports and Wings.
John Max has been able to pivot to providing take-out orders of chicken wings but some restaurants can't provide take-out service.
Naidu said for them the DINE#YQG program will provide help accessing government support grants.
"In many cases, the restaurants are not informed about what is out there," said Naidu.
"I was told by one colleague of mine that last week a local restaurant received about $80,000 in terms of support through the regional recovery fund."
Mike Stojcic, the owner of Panache Restaurant in downtown Windsor, says it is keeping the lights on by providing take- out service.
"Any advertisement out there or any other forms of getting our name out there for people to look into, purchase food off us for their own needs, anything helps," said Stojcic.
Naidu said in a survey last year, one in six restaurant owners said they expected they would have to close permanently due to the pandemic.
Naidu said the lockdown measures have resulted in the loss of 3,600 jobs in the Windsor area.
"Without question, the losses and sacrifices are real, and there have been and will be many," said Gordon Orr, CEO of TWEPI.
"What we've been heartened by is seeing the way that businesses have pivoted and adapted their business delivery model to accommodate and adapt to the environment that we're currently faced with."