'A crazy day': Ottawa restaurants left reeling after Rogers outage

·3 min read
Zak's Diner staff talk to someone at the entrance to their patio last summer. The ByWard Market diner was one of many Ottawa restaurants left scrambling Friday by a countrywide Rogers service outage. (Brian Morris/CBC - image credit)
Zak's Diner staff talk to someone at the entrance to their patio last summer. The ByWard Market diner was one of many Ottawa restaurants left scrambling Friday by a countrywide Rogers service outage. (Brian Morris/CBC - image credit)

Many bars and restaurants in Ottawa felt the weight of Friday's Rogers outage as they were unable to accept debit and credit transactions — and some couldn't even serve customers at all.

Manny Mellios, co-owner of The Sandwich Shop, called it a "disaster" and said his business lost almost 75 percent of its regular Friday sales.

"We had no phones, we had no internet. So we had no payment system. We couldn't get our delivery platforms going," he said.

His store is located in a business park off St. Laurent Boulevard and is largely reliant on customers ordering from delivery or pickup apps.

"It was completely, like, a crazy day. You know, especially on a Friday, one of our biggest days of the week," Mellios said. "It was not fun for us."

Another 'tough beating' for restaurant industry

By Saturday, services were back online for most Rogers customers. Tony Staffieri, the telecom giant's CEO, released a statement saying they'd narrowed the cause of the outage to a "network system failure following a maintenance update in our core network."

Staffieri said service had been restored and the company's "networks and systems are close to fully operational." He also apologized for the outage.

Michael Wood, a small business advocate in Ottawa and a former business owner himself, said many bars and restaurants that rely on digital technology for food orders were particularly hampered.

"They couldn't access the internet in order to take these orders to continue to sustain their businesses," Wood said, noting many restaurants are still struggling more than two years into the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The restaurant sector took another tough beating."

Part of the problem, Wood said, is many people don't realize how closely tied Interac is to Rogers Communications. That meant it wasn't widely understood that a massive outage would mean customers couldn't pay with debit or credit.

Contributed by Manny Nellios
Contributed by Manny Nellios

"I think that we're going to see some customers — at least for the next little while — keep some money in their pockets, so that they're able to pay for things should something like this happen again," Wood said.

At Zak's Diner in the ByWard Market, the outage meant the popular eatery lost around 40 per cent of its business Friday, said director of operations Kate Rutledge.

"I think a lot of people were kind of lost," Rutledge said. "People had to pay with cash [and] you know, not very many people carry cash anymore."

Rutledge said she saw people lined up at ATMs around the market, trying to get cash. By the time the 24-hour diner's evening shift rolled around, many of those ATMs had run out of money.

"So our overnight wasn't as busy either because people ... didn't have a method of payment," Rutledge said.

Rogers has said it would "proactively credit all customers automatically for yesterday's outage," but as of Saturday afternoon had not provided further details.

As for Mellios, he's hoping whatever Rogers comes up with is substantial.

"If Rogers costs me 200 bucks a month for the phone service, internet, cable, they should [offer] five months of free service just to compensate," he said. "I think that would be fair."

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