Dine Out Vancouver — the food and drink festival that offers fixed-price menus to get customers into restaurants during the slow winter months — is back for its 20th year.
Within the list of hundreds of participating restaurants, there are a few that have been part of the festival each year since it started back in 2003, including Bacchus at the Wedgewood Hotel in Vancouver and The Hart House in Burnaby.
But the restaurants say operating in the middle of a pandemic for the last two years has been challenging.
The latest set of restrictions from the B.C. government, which are set to expire Jan. 18, limit the maximum number of people per table to six with physical distancing or barriers between tables. Patrons must also provide proof of full vaccination along with photo I.D.
As well, supply chain issues and staffing shortages have added other obstacles.
Hart House sales manager Sonja Muller said the restaurant had to change its Dine Out menu four times before the festival started Jan. 14, due to supply chain issues linked to extreme flooding that hit B.C. in mid November.
It's not just the availability of the products, Muller said, supplier staff shortages means deliveries don't always happen.
"We find ourselves often actually going out picking up things, because deliveries are hard to come by sometimes, especially for the smaller suppliers," she said.
Co-owner and managing director of Wedgewood Hotel & Spa Elpie Marinakis said they've also had to get creative with their offerings. She said one of the features of Dine Out is a reduced menu which means the volume of certain ingredients is higher than normal.
"We've had to be extremely innovative in finding ingredients and definitely using more local ingredients and using more local producers in order to support our local suppliers," she said.
In the spirit of supporting local, Marinakis, said they've paired B.C. wines with items on their dinner menu.
"I think, if anything, it's brought, you know, B.C. and Vancouver closer together, the culinary community much tighter. We're all willing to help each other."
Even though Dine Out reservations haven't been as high as pre-pandemic years, Muller said The Hart House is thankful to be open and celebrating 20 years as a festival participant.
"Things are looking brighter."
Dine Out Vancouver runs until Jan. 31, 2022.