Editor’s Letter: Notes from quarantine
April 22, 2020
By Naomi Szeben
Three weeks ago, everyone here at Annex thought the quarantine would simply last two weeks. Fourteen days, surely that would be enough to flatten the curve? As I write this, we’re now in the second month of social isolation, and we can see the toll it has taken on individuals, businesses and our communities.
The columnists and contributing writers were optimistic when writing their pieces. Diane Chiasson writes of sunny decks and patio season, conjuring images of happy groups of people seated next to each other, sharing treats off the same plate. Bonny Koabel offers resources for securing financial aid; the two articles are different side of the same coin. Both offer vital information for today’s bakers.
As I write this, I’m contemplating going out in the evening, when I don’t have to behave like a live-action version of the old Pacman video game: Go out, avoid others, get some fruit.
There are multiple reactions to this pandemic. We could wander about in the dark, avoiding others, like Pacman. But, we’ve learned that as a whole, Canadians work better together. We’ve learned to think outside of the delivery box, and look to our community for support.
Internet resources have never been more useful. Online orders are flourishing. Restaurants and cafés are pushing their creativity to new limits, finding ways to raise revenue and bring people together. Chefs used to focus on menu changes to lure clients in; today, chefs are redefining the dining experience to bring in business, even if it’s done remotely.
Urban Acorn Catering owners Marie Fitrion and Daniel Holloway created an online supper club to support their catering company. They found their niche in the pandemic dining market. The flicker of computer screens replaced the warm glow of candlelight, but it worked to fight cabin fever while sampling good food. The pair modified their menu to be delivery-friendly. They avoided dishes that would become soggy or fall apart if transported. And just like that, the Urban Acorn Catering company reinvented the supper club.
The pair emailed newsletters to their clients, announcing their first virtual supper club featuring a price reduction that was sure to attract new customers. The catering company prepped and packaged dishes before delivery, including instructions for assembly and re-heating as well as the coordinates for their Zoom meeting.
The pair reported that the supper club didn’t feel forced or awkward, proving that clients need a human connection as much as they need food. Acorn’s business motto is, “food should unite, not divide people,” and it has brought strangers successfully together.
I hope Acorn’s story is an inspiration to other cafés, bakeries or restaurants. Food does unite us in ways we don’t expect, whether we meet a work colleague in an office break room or take a client out for coffee. If your business has not already done this, I would recommend companies create a “virtual coffee break” for offices, offer a discount on delivery and create pre-packaged snacks with hot coffee. (Online meetings are optional for those who might want a break from a screen.)
Think of the ways that people normally connect over food and find a way to bring some strangers together online and share a new dining experience. While we may not have originally thought of social isolation as a global experience, much less a business model, together, we can get through this.
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