They have no staff left and no money coming in. The owners of a Yellowknife restaurant and bar are turning to a service that drops their meals on your doorstep, ready to cook.
Easy Meals is the creation of Steve Dinham and Jennifer Vornbrock, owners of the city’s Monkey Tree Pub and Stake Restaurant. You choose your meals from a menu and they arrive with prepared ingredients and step-by-step instructions.
Dinham and Vornbrock hope Easy Meals – a departure from more common delivery services – will help get their business back on its feet.
“It’s been a huge struggle. We’re trying to figure out what we can do until the time comes that we can get back to a regular routine,” Dinham told Cabin Radio.
“We’ve had nothing but time for the last month so we started working on it, but it has been a long road to get the proper packaging. The instruction manuals for each individual plate were a lot more time-consuming than anticipated.
“So was finding the exact portion you need so there is no waste and still enough to provide a family dinner.”
Residents have until the end of Sunday, April 19 to place their orders for Easy Meals’ first round of deliveries, which will take place on Friday, April 24, the company said.
Options on the website include chicken tetrazzini, a beef tenderloin dinner, naan bread pizza, nachos, and wings. Garlic toast will cost you two bucks a serving. The beef tenderloin sells for $32.
“We’re trying to have everything pre-prepped so it’s ready to go into your frying pan, into your oven,” said Dinham.
“We’re trying to provide a foolproof meal plan for everyone – people still working who don’t have time to cook, people who don’t want to go to the grocery store, families, roommates.”
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Stake and the Monkey Tree have had to lay off “100 percent” of their staff, Dinham said – him included.
Even with the federal government’s 75-percent emergency wage subsidy program, Dinham said the business currently has no money with which to pay the remaining 25 percent and bring people back.
“I’m not in a position to just outright pay the additional 25 percent with no revenue coming in,” he said.
Easy Meals is one of several new ventures dreamed up by Yellowknife restaurant owners desperate to preserve some income amid the pandemic.
On Friday, Yellowknife’s Co-op grocery store announced meals from the Copperhouse restaurant will now be available for purchase in-store.
“Cooperation will be essential in the upcoming months. Let’s find solutions together to keep our community strong,” the store stated on its Facebook page.
Dinham said Easy Meals may help rejuvenate his business because the costs of delivering ready-to-cook meals in advance are easier to predict than on-the-night hot meal delivery.
“We’ve gone down the [hot food] delivery road before. It’s just really tough because of the unexpected: how many orders you’re gong to have, how many staff you’ll need, how many supplies you need on-hand,” said Dinham.
“You get into days where there’s limited delivery, you get into days where there’s a ton of delivery. You need the labour force to have multiple drivers on a last-minute notice.
“On those busy nights, we found the wait time was through the roof. It takes a lot longer to deliver, take payment and whatnot, than you would think. This will be prepaid, we can arrange a delivery time, bang, it’s on your doorstep.”
Once Dinham sees how many orders come in, he’ll start working out how many staff he can rehire.
“I hope I’ll be able to at least hire some staff back for the kitchen and other people delivering the pre-prepped meals,” he said. “We’ll wait and see. We don’t really know what to expect.”