Sit down for a meal at restaurants around the world right now, and your table could feature anything from shower curtains pulled round your party at an Ohio cafe to clear plastic sneeze guards separating diners in restaurants from Hong Kong to Rome.
In a field in Sweden, you’ll find a basket-and-pulley setup rigged to ferry food to a table for one, provided you book well in advance.
Around the world, restaurant owners are coming up with their own ways to do business in the midst of a pandemic that’s thrown their industry on its head.
But with restrictions still in place across Canada, some restaurateurs say the reopening reality closer to home is likely to look more familiar — just with diners a lot farther apart — as restaurants focus capital on simply keeping the lights on.
“How it’s going to look? It’s going to look empty,” said Tony Siwicki, owner of Silver Heights Restaurant in Winnipeg and interim chairperson for the Manitoba Restaurant and Foods Association.
“It’s going to be very spacious. It’s going to be comical. People are going to be laughing at this scenario — but they’re going to understand.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the restaurant industry hard. Statistics Canada says the accommodation and food services sector shrank by almost a quarter in March and dropped again by nearly 10 per cent in April. Across sectors, some of the hardest hit have been small businesses.
“We could see anywhere from 10 to 30 per cent of restaurants simply disappear,” said James Rilett, vice-president of the central Canada region with Restaurants Canada.
“When we look at independent restaurants, about 50 per cent of them had doubts whether they’d be able to reopen.”
Some restaurant patios are open now, in keeping with rules under the province’s plan to reopen the economy. Indoor dining rooms can’t open until June 1 at the earliest, but that date and the rules surrounding it remain subject to change.
Despite the uncertainty, Siwicki said he wouldn’t be surprised to see creative solutions emerge locally.
“There’s really not too much out there yet,” he said. “But I think, June 1, you’re going to see a lot of new ways [and asking,] ‘Why didn’t I think about that?'”
Spaced-out dining rooms, more staff cleaning
Rilett is skeptical about seeing widespread use in Canada of changes like tableside sneeze guards or extra walls, because those interventions cost money and space, he said.
Instead, he said diners should expect to see different table layouts when they return to their favourite spots — and the floorplan of individual dining rooms could have a big impact on how those restaurants bounce back.
Manitoba guidelines indicate restaurants will have to cut back dining room occupancy by 50 per cent. But requirements for physical distancing between everyone inside the building could limit occupancy even further, Rilett said.
“Even if I do have a lot of floor space, if that’s long and thin, by the time you get a corridor for staff and patrons to walk through it might take out more than half your tables,” he said.
Stepped-up requirements for sanitation may also mean you’ll see more staff in roles like hosting, Siwicki said.
Where a restaurant may have had one host seating people and wiping tables and menus down between guests, they may now need two or three, he said. He’s expecting to see more staff involved in explaining sanitation processes to customers, too.
“There’s going to be a lot of labour going out, just to make sure that that’s happening properly,” he said.
‘So much uncertainty’
In small restaurants, Rilett says the rules may hit harder. The same size constraints that previously created a feeling of coziness and intimacy or a friendly hustle-and-bustle could work against restaurants during a pandemic.
“A lot of our original concept was high-quality food, in a very intimate dinner environment,” said Cam Chabot, co-owner of Winnipeg’s Close Co. The restaurant on Stafford Street has a footprint of fewer than 400 square feet.
“That is not what people will be looking for in the near future, and nor do we want to put anyone in that position.”
After closing its dining room, Close Co. adapted by pivoting to offer takeout. Now, Chabot and other owners are trying to figure out if they can afford to stay where they are in the face of unchanging overhead obligations and reduced capacity.
“There’s so much uncertainty there. The easy thing to do would be to shut down,” he said.
“We’re still in the feeling-out phase of whether this is even viable. And I know for a lot of restaurants, it’s just not going to be.”
Lucien Joyal, general manager and co-owner of The Oxbow Natural Wine Bar and Restaurant in Winnipeg, said he’s expecting to see a heightened awareness from diners about how close they are to each other and staff.
The South Osborne restaurant closed in March ahead of provincial orders. Summer months there are usually slower, Joyal said, since they don’t have a patio. Owners are expecting not to reopen until late summer or fall.
“I think what we’re definitely expecting to see is … a shift in the diners’ consciousness, in terms of how they perceive things like distance between tables or distance between you and your server,” he said.
“The way they see things like, you know, hand-washing and, you know, use of shared bathrooms and even things like menus.… A lot of places are going to switch to using laminated menus or using paper menus that are disposed of after each use.”
‘All we can do is adapt’
There’s no timeline for when the pandemic, or any impact it has on public habits, will fade. As the economy reopens, Rilett said Manitoba may be well-served by what he sees as a relatively stronger culture of supporting local.
“If anything positive comes out of this, if it’s a better link between the producer and the restaurants, then that’d definitely be a good thing.”
At the local level, Joyal said he sees resilience and creativity in the industry around him.
“Small restaurants and small businesses pride themselves on their adaptability. That really is kind of the name of the game,” he said.
“It’s difficult for us to speculate on how people’s perception and how people’s awareness is going to change over time. So from our end, all we can do is adapt as we go.”
Google in $5bn lawsuit for tracking in 'private' mode – BBC News
Google has been sued in the US over claims it illegally invades the privacy of users by tracking people even when they are browsing in “private mode”.
The class action wants at least $5bn (£4bn) from Google and owner Alphabet.
Many internet users assume their search history isn’t being tracked when they view in private mode, but Google says this isn’t the case.
The search engine denies this is illegal and says it is upfront about the data it collects in this mode.
The proposed class action likely includes “millions” of Google users who since 1 June 2016 browsed the internet in private mode according to law firm Boies Schiller Flexner who filed the claim on Tuesday in federal court in San Jose, California.
Incognito mode within Google’s Chrome browser gives users the choice to search the internet without their activity being saved to the browser or device. But the websites visited can use tools such as Google Analytics to track usage.
The complaint says that Google “cannot continue to engage in the covert and unauthorized data collection from virtually every American with a computer or phone”.
Vigorously denying the claims Google spokesman Jose Castaneda said: “As we clearly state each time you open a new incognito tab, websites might be able to collect information about your browsing activity”.
The search engine says the collection of search history, even in private viewing mode, helps site owners “better evaluate the performance of their content, products, marketing and more.”
While private browsing has been available from Google for some time, Boies Schiller Flexner said it recently decided to represent three plaintiffs based in the US.
“People everywhere are becoming more aware (and concerned) that their personal communications are being intercepted, collected, recorded, or exploited for gain by technology companies they have come to depend on,” it said in the filing.
One option is for visitors to install Google Analytics browser opt-out extension to disable measurement by Google Analytics, it says.
Google is sued in US for tracking users' 'private' internet browsing – The Jerusalem Post
Google was sued on Tuesday in a proposed class action accusing the internet search company of illegally invading the privacy of millions of users by pervasively tracking their internet use through browsers set in “private” mode.The lawsuit seeks at least $5 billion, accusing the Alphabet Inc unit of surreptitiously collecting information about what people view online and where they browse, despite their using what Google calls Incognito mode.According to the complaint filed in the federal court in San Jose, California, Google gathers data through Google Analytics, Google Ad Manager and other applications and website plug-ins, including smartphone apps, regardless of whether users click on Google-supported ads.This helps Google learn about users’ friends, hobbies, favorite foods, shopping habits, and even the “most intimate and potentially embarrassing things” they search for online, the complaint said.Google “cannot continue to engage in the covert and unauthorized data collection from virtually every American with a computer or phone,” the complaint said.Jose Castaneda, a Google spokesman, said the Mountain View, California-based company will defend itself vigorously against the claims.”As we clearly state each time you open a new incognito tab, websites might be able to collect information about your browsing activity,” he said.While users may view private browsing as a safe haven from watchful eyes, computer security researchers have long raised concern that Google and rivals might augment user profiles by tracking people’s identities across different browsing modes, combining data from private and ordinary internet surfing.The complaint said the proposed class likely includes “millions” of Google users who since June 1, 2016 browsed the internet in “private” mode.It seeks at least $5,000 of damages per user for violations of federal wiretapping and California privacy laws.Boies Schiller & Flexner represents the plaintiffs Chasom Brown, Maria Nguyen and William Byatt.
Huawei Snubbed by Canadian Firms Ahead of Trudeau’s Crucial 5G Call – Yahoo Finance
(Bloomberg) — Two major Canadian wireless companies said they will build out their next-generation 5G wireless networks with equipment from European providers, sidelining China’s Huawei Technologies Co.
Montreal-based BCE Inc. said that Ericsson AB will provide the radio access network equipment — the critical antennas and base stations — for its 5G network. Telus Corp. said in a separate statement that it has selected Ericsson and Nokia Oyj “to support building” its network, without elaborating.
Those announcements come ahead of a closely watched — and long overdue — decision by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on whether to ban Huawei from participating in the nation’s 5G infrastructure amid deeply troubled relations with Beijing. Huawei previously played a large role in Canadian wireless networks but has faced growing national security concerns from Western governments.
BCE would still consider working with Huawei if the government allows their participation in 5G, the Canadian company said in an e-mailed response to questions.
The Trump administration has lobbied allies to ban Huawei 5G, saying its equipment would make networks vulnerable to exploitation by the Chinese government. Despite that, the U.K. said in January it would allow Huawei a limited role. In recent days, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government has backtracked, saying it seeks to reduce reliance on the company’s technology and on China.
Telus and BCE awarded Huawei its first major project in North America in 2008 — a pivotal contract that helped cement the Chinese provider’s reputation as a global player that could compete on quality. The deal paved the way for it to become a major supplier to all three of Canada’s biggest telecom companies over the next decade.
Stalling in Ottawa
The Telus announcement comes as a particular surprise after Chief Financial Officer Doug French told the National Post in February that “we’re going to launch 5G with Huawei out of the gate” by the end of the year.
Telus spokeswoman Donna Ramirez didn’t immediately respond to a question on whether the company’s announcement still leaves room for Huawei to participate in its 5G rollout. Huawei said in an emailed statement it looks forward to the federal government completing its 5G review and making an evidence-based decision about its role in helping build Canada’s next-generation wireless networks.
Trudeau has stalled on whether to ban Huawei. Tensions between the two countries have been rising since Canadian authorities arrested Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou on a U.S. handover request in late 2018. After her arrest, China put two Canadian citizens in jail, halted billions of dollars in Canadian imports and put two other Canadians on death row.
The extradition proceedings against Meng, the eldest daughter of the company’s billionaire founder, have pushed Canada’s relationship with its second-biggest trading partner into its worst state in decades. Beijing has accused Canada of abetting a U.S.-led “political persecution” against a national champion.
(Updates eighth paragraph with statement from Huawei)
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