Calgary locals know Vin Room as a place that provides “a setting for people to explore a collection of wines as diverse as themselves” since its opening in 2008. With three locations to manage, navigating the pandemic was especially difficult for owner Phoebe Fung. Their location in the Calgary International Airport has been forced to remain closed through the entire pandemic as the concourse in which it’s located is closed for the time being. As for their Mission and West locations, they’ve been able to re-open after the mandatory three-month closure enforced by the Alberta government, but not without countless challenges and adaptations to their current business model.
“In 48 hours we converted from a dine-in restaurant to a takeout/delivery business, and then in another 48, we were a catering business. It was crazy” explains Phoebe. “We were able to retain our management staff which make up 80% of our employees, and during those initial days of the pandemic, they became drivers to deliver food.”
Phoebe recounts how many new skills all members of the Vin Room team had to learn during this transition period when they weren’t allowed to be open for dine-in. She described their process of revamping their takeout and delivery packaging as an “arts and crafts day,” with managers learning how to wrap packages and make stickers. Her team even got into the tech world and created a Shopify platform for their catering service in less than 48 hours.
As an established business with long-standing relationships, Phoebe saw just how devastating the forced restaurant closure was for local suppliers. On the first day of shut down, one local supplier was left with virtually no restaurant business, and so Vin Room became his distributor. With a bit of creativity and teamwork, the Vin Room team sold his lamb packages alongside their wine to households in Calgary, so his product wouldn’t go wasted.
“As consumers and business owners we should be kind to one another during these troubled times. Most businesses in Canada are small businesses, and the need to support local is more prevalent than ever.” Phoebe stresses. “Behind each business are dozens of local suppliers, and we’re all trying to adapt to a new normal, so it’s important to be empathetic of that.”
For more information on Vin Room, please visit http://www.vinroom.com/.