Ottawa: Paradise Poké
Before the pandemic, Paradise Poké was a go-to lunch spot for those working downtown Ottawa. But the shift from office work to remote work has forced restaurant owner Ryan Moleiro to reinvent the wheel and shift the way they typically operate. After the initial closure on March 13th, they did a few days of Uber Eats delivery, but ultimately prioritized the safety of staff and decided that they weren’t well equipped enough to remain open. Following this decision, the restaurant remained closed for a full ten weeks.
The eventual decision to re-open came after enough information was available on the virus. With less uncertainty, Ryan felt confident in implementing the necessary safety measures, knowing his staff was not at an increased risk. Since the re-opening, they’ve been able to re-hire all eight of their original staff members. One thing that Ryan felt was extremely difficult was the ambiguity of government guidelines.
“They pretty much left it up to business owners to decide what needed to be done on top of the basic requirements. The variability in that is really scary.” Ryan explained. “The ambiguity of it all was a major reason why we remained closed for so long.”
As a restaurant that was never designed for dine-in, with merely eight seats in the restaurant, the adjustment to the takeout and delivery culture that came with the pandemic was easier to navigate, but far from effortless. They already knew how to make their food ready for takeout as that’s the style they were used to, but the ordering process had to be completely revamped. Their old model was like Chipotle, where customers would build a bowl as they go along the line, but after shifting to operate out of a single takeout window, this ordering method was no longer feasible.
“Our recipes are the only thing that has remained the same through all this.” States Ryan.
He describes the past few months as opening an entirely new business. He fears that people expect everything to be the same as before, but that’s impossible for the industry. Nearly 50% of Paradise Poké’s orders now come from Uber Eats and Door Dash, compared to the mere 10% from before the pandemic. Timing food delivery pickups and coordinating online orders is an entirely different process than their previous in-person pickup model.
“It feels like we ran into a brick wall. We were looking into opening a second location. We thought we had it figured out, but that’s all changed now.” Ryan admits. “I don’t know if downtown Ottawa will ever be as busy as it once was now that remote work may be the new normal. Regardless, we need to remain hopeful.”
For more information on Paradise Poké, please visit https://www.paradisepoke.ca/.