inResponse - Saylish Haas - The Next Act, Meat and Pip

"inResponse" is a new program in partnership with What I Wish I Knew to explore how people, business owners and our communities have been impacted and how they’re handling COVID-19. We’ll interview local leaders and businesses to gain insight into how they cope with challenges like the current pandemic. 

We’re on the hunt for answers, information and solutions and will look to share these so each of us can turn this challenge into an opportunity.

For session 2 of inResponse Lesley Vaage chatted with Saylish Haas, co-owner/operator of 3 local favourite restaurants in Edmonton - The Next ActMeat, and Pip. If you’re from the city, you’ve likely heard of these 3 spots, or dine at them weekly. 

In a time where the local food community has been thrown on its head, businesses have quickly pivoted their operations to focus solely on take-out and delivery. This means drastic shifts in operations, staffing, and revenues. 

“That was a very hard call for us to make. We had to, through a bunch of tears, lay everybody off.”

The closures were swift. It seemed like one day everything was normal and then over the weekend, the city shut down. Saylish and her team decided to close the dining rooms and move to delivery and take out only.

“We did take-out for three days, and it was a nightmare.” With information and guideline changes coming in multiple times per day, the team felt like they couldn’t operate and maintain the experience and safety they have been known for. Management decided to close for a brief time to be able to make the proper changes “We took two weeks for everybody to quarantine so that we knew everybody was healthy and safe.”

It’s not an easy switch for a business to make. Delivery takes a considerable amount of extra work and costs. Take-out only is an option, however, when the population is expected to stay inside many people pick up their phone to order instead of picking it up themselves. Many popular third-party apps have been created and remain fierce competition for local restaurants trying to do delivery a different way.

“Even though it’s very convenient there's this sort of fine line between is it worth it for the business.”

Margins in the restaurant industry are already pretty thin, but integrating with some of the major third-party delivery apps comes at a steep cost. 20-30% of each order going directly to these companies. Individuals bills are also lower as thing’s items like drinks and dessert, items with a relatively higher margin, are not typically ordered through delivery. So businesses must choose to sacrifice customer experience and connection to farm out deliveries. Saylish and her team have developed a great reputation in the community. Next Act, Meat, and Pip have created an award-winning experience, both on the plate and in their dining rooms. The culture that the management and staff have created in these locations has made them a go-to spot for locals. Saylish hopes to still be able to pass that experience on in some form through the new process.

“We know people like the convenience of delivery if they can, however, I recommend people use take out. Having customers pick up gives us the reassurance that we can hand it to them with a smile. Even a small wave from afar or a virtual high five, we’re happy to offer that”

Watch the whole 30-minute interview with Saylish in the video above.