After 30 years in business, Waldo’s on King owner Mark Kitching had never experienced the degree of hardship brought on by COVID-19. Forced to fully close from March 14th to 28th, he described this period as the “saddest business moment of his life.” Not alone in this feeling, he predicts that 95% of businesses in London, Ontario have experienced a great loss of revenue, upwards of 40%.
After this period of closure, Waldos was forced to re-invent themselves. Efforts to create new online platforms and shift to takeout and delivery were implemented, but this adjustment wasn’t easy. Mark works upwards of 10 hours per day, 7 days a week, just to continuously adapt and keep the business running. Like many small business owners navigating this pandemic, he foresees burnout and other mental health issues arising in the long term. Despite the long hours, restaurants are still losing money as fewer people are eating out.
“It’s like going into work every day, working over-time, and having to pay your boss $150 to be there.” Mark describes. “Everyone in the industry is working so hard, but still losing money. We’ve lost money every month since the beginning of the pandemic.” He explains.
Waldo’s on King has been in business for 30 years, and Mark explains that their reputation and established nature played a big role in surviving the pandemic. They have regular customers and had good cash flow going into the pandemic. The Waldo’s staff worked tirelessly during their period of closure to adapt and work on advertising. Due to these efforts, their July sales nearly mirrored sales from the previous year. The government allowed them to put tables on the street, which increased their capacity significantly despite indoor seating restrictions.
With a Canadian winter just around the corner, current solutions including patios and street seating will no longer be feasible. Restaurants will be limited to partial-capacity indoor seating, which is unsustainable from a revenue perspective.
“Every restaurant owner is doing the best they can with what’s been thrown at them, and many of the rules that are in place are not up to us, it’s up to the government” Mark explains.
He predicts that in the coming years, there will be a fraction of the small businesses that exist today. The worst is unfortunately yet to come, so support local whenever possible.
For more information on Waldo’s on King, please visit https://www.waldos.on.ca/.