Jill Harvie has a passion for the restaurant industry. Her podcast “Food Careers by Bright Pasture” highlights the people who move food from pasture to plate. She’s an outspoken advocate on behalf of the Canadian beef industry, knocking down silos between producers and customers.
In a recent episode, Jill spoke with Marcel Blais, President of Chop Steakhouse, about the overwhelming challenges restaurants have faced during the pandemic. “We often think of the grocery store meat aisle when we talk about beef customers, but restaurants are important customers too,” Harvie points out.
The pandemic has hit the restaurant industry hard with up to 30 percent of Canadian restaurants expected to permanently close as a result of it. Chop Steakhouse has 16 locations across Canada. In the initial stages of the pandemic, they had to lay off almost all of their staff. “On March 17, 2020—I’ll never forget that day—we had over 1,000 team members across the country and we laid virtually everyone off except for about six people. It was emotionally devastating,” says Blais.
By September, 65 to 70 percent of the Chop Steakhouse team was working again, after significant investments towards implementing measures to protect staff and customers. In December, stronger provincewide restrictions were put in place, once again closing restaurants for indoor dining. When the episode of Food Careers aired on February 3rd, the Chop Steakhouse team was a skeleton in most locations, employing 10-15 percent of their regular staff and restricted to offering takeout and delivery only.
Despite the obvious hardships, Marcel Blais is ultimately optimistic, believing the best and most resilient version of Canada will emerge from this crisis.
Listen to the full episode on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.
Restaurants across Alberta account for a large percentage of Alberta beef sales. Supporting and staying connected to those customers, that we sell both directly and indirectly to as producers, will be key to a viable and successful value chain both now and into the future.
Jill Harvie is an Alberta beef producer, co-owner of Harvie Ranching, and was recently listed among Canadian Western Agribition’s Top 50 in Canadian Agriculture. Find her podcast at brightpasture.com.