LITTLE CURRENT – The restrictions of the COVID-19 global pandemic continues to hit the hospitality industry hard, but two Island businesses have come together to bolster both of their fortunes through these dark times in their industry through cooperation rather than competition.
“The Trough had been providing food to our patio for the past three years,” said MBC co-owner Blair Hagman. “After The Trough decided to pull out this year we were in a little bit of a tricky situation, with COVID and we didn’t know when, or if, we would be allowed to open.”
When it became clear they would be able to open, with certain restrictions, Mr. Hagman and his partners decided to approach the Anchor Inn to see if they would consider partnering up to provide food.
“The Manitoulin Brewing Company approached me asking if I would like to team up,” said Denise Callaghan, co-owner of Little Current’s popular Anchor Inn restaurant. “I was happy to do that.”
“We wanted to ensure that people would be able to enjoy the same great experience, with great food, that they had become accustomed to,” said Mr. Hagman. “With the Anchor so nearby, it has turned out great.”
“We employ 25 to 50 people through the year,” said Ms. Callaghan. “Less in the off-season and more in the summer. The three owners of the brewery have eight children between them. We all need to get through this and still be open after COVID.”
With the physical limits placed on the number of patrons they can serve, despite the addition of an expanded outdoor patio, the Anchor Inn found itself with spare capacity in its kitchen.
“We are so very grateful to our loyal customers who have continued to place orders throughout these restrictions,” said Ms. Callaghan. “The community has been awesome.”
But the situation that has developed in the industry has presented serious challenges and the two companies came up with the innovative solution of partnering up.
Customers at the Manitoulin Brewing Company simply place their orders as they would at any outdoor patio serving food. The order is transmitted to the Anchor Inn kitchen and the staff their prepare the food. Once the order is ready, Anchor Inn staff deliver the meals to the brewery patio, just as they would to their own.
Ms. Callaghan notes that while the system is not ideal, and the distance between the Anchor Inn and the Manitoulin Brewing Company patio does add a bit of time to the wait, it is working.
“It’s summertime, chill and relax,” advises Ms. Callaghan. “Kick back and enjoy your beer. It’s great that we can still do this.”
Things have definitely been busy this summer, she said. “It’s busy with the food, but also there are a lot of added things we have to do now. For instance, we sterilize everything, over and over. If a finger touches it, we sterilize it.”
The hotel side of the business is also taking a big hit, more from the precautions Ms. Callaghan insists in employing above and beyond health unit requirements. “I insist on being here for any room bookings,” she said. “I want to ensure that all of the right questions are being asked.”
Mr. Hagman estimates that the tourism end of things is down about 50 percent of what it was last year, but given how uncertain things were back in April, “we just take it as it comes.”
An upside bonus for the MBC crew is that the summer isn’t quite as hectic as it usually is. “I actually get a few weekends off,” laughed Mr. Hagman. “We will just spend time in a planning phase for 2021.”