For 30 years, Chic Alors has been serving gourmet pizza to the suburban community just outside of Québec City. The restaurant had its grand opening on August 20th, 1990, and they’ve been committed to feeding the residents of Québec ever since. The COVID-19 pandemic was unlike anything owner Hugh Philippin had ever seen in his thirty years in the business, but fortunately, they had the systems and community support to navigate the new landscape.
The initial pandemic days presented a unique challenge for Hugh and his wife, who had just returned to Québec from Europe and were forced to complete a 14-day quarantine. For a local business owner, this meant dealing with all the required changes and new safety measures via phone, which added a new layer of complexity to the already uneasy situation. They were forced to reduce their weekly operating hours by twenty-one, and downsize their staff to cope with reductions in sales.
Unlike other types of cuisine, Pizza is known as a takeout item. Chic Alors has had a takeout and delivery system in place for three years now, making the transition to eliminate dine-in much easier. Before the pandemic, they took orders through an online portal on their website in addition to phone-in orders, but when dine-in closed they were forced to re-think their system. They went from having 2% of orders through their online portal to 100%, eventually deciding to stop phone-in orders altogether to focus on mitigating the increase.
“We’re lucky because we’re not a theme-based restaurant, you come to our restaurant for the good food and our customers live right next door,” explains Hugh. “We didn’t see that big of a drop in orders because 50% of our orders were takeout before the pandemic anyways.”
Hugh has seen this pandemic as a wakeup call for the restaurant and the way they operate. He’s found that they’re much more efficient with their time and that there’s been a significant reduction in food waste. They’ve used the pandemic to streamline their operation and make changes that customers would have otherwise been skeptical about, like cutting down the menu to a simpler, more manageable version. It’s a fine balancing act between keeping customers happy with tradition and being complacent, and COVID has allowed them the flexibility to make changes without the fear of criticism.
“We’d like to thank our community for continuing to support us,” Hugh stresses. “We’re going to get through it. They’re predicting that 50% of restaurants will close, but we’re not going to be one of them.”
For more information on Chic Alors! or to order gourmet pizza, please visit https://www.chic-alors.com/.