As vaccinations become key to entering businesses like restaurants, the service industry is reminding patrons that kindness is the best currency.
Clayton Gillie and Beth Ashton are part owners of August Restaurant in Lincoln and You Had Me at Pizza in Grimsby. The duo also co-own Smoke and Moonshine in Lincoln with a third owner, Celynn Sullivan.
With decades of restaurateur experience between the three of them, all agree that hospitality is the main ingredient in any successful restaurant.
“Between us and our staff and our suppliers and everybody (who) deals with us, we want them to feel like they can rely on us,” Ashton said.
Although patios and takeout orders are still available to all, a vaccination status-based indoor dining policy makes conducting business difficult, the owners say.
“You can't make both sides of any argument happy,” Gillie said. “It really does take the hospitality out of it.”
Ashton said asking customers for their medical history, much like having to ask if they lived in the same household earlier this year, made both staff and patrons uncomfortable.
The trio agreed that although their hope is to one day return to regular business, they understand that they have to follow the province’s legislation to keep their doors open.
At Smoke and Moonshine, a sign has been placed at the front door that reads “Please be nice. We are sensitive.” The sign serves as a reminder to patrons that although their business is always welcome, they’re asked to leave their frustrations about the issue at the door.
“Your host or your server, they’re stuck between doing what they’re supposed to do by law, and what people perceive as is right or not right,” Gillie said. “It’s a challenge.”
They said that staff, some of whom are students, are not always qualified nor emotionally equipped to deal with disgruntled patrons, especially when it comes to political issues.
In the meantime, however, the restaurant owners said they are committed to making sure everyone can still have an enjoyable experience, be they seated indoors or outdoors.
“I wish I had the ruby red slippers, to say there’s no place like 2019,” said Stephanie Hicks, executive director of Downtown Bench Beamsville Business Improvement Area.
“Businesses are obligated to protect their staff and the guests, they have to,” she said. Hicks added that entering a business, be it a restaurant or a gym or otherwise, is a privilege and not a right.
“I mean that to say, you need to be kind.”
She said conflict management, especially when it concerns political policy, is not something most service industry employees are trained to do.
Hicks said she hopes the measures are temporary and will help prevent a fourth lockdown. In the meantime, she encouraged people to continue to shop local and rely on the power of compliments.
“We need to use our words and vocalize our kindness and that will go a long way,” she said. “To an employee or a business owner, just hearing them and talking to them goes a long, long way right now.”
STORY BEHIND THE STORY: With the implementation of vaccination status-based service, reporter Moosa Imran connected with West Niagara business owners to explore how the new program is affecting business.
Moosa Imran, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grimsby Lincoln News