July/August 2020 – Facing the Music

With a mission to inform, empower, celebrate and advocate for British Columbia's current and aspiring business leaders, BCBusiness go behind the headlines and bring readers face to face with the key issues and people driving business in B.C.

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Page 23 of 79

24 BCBUSINESS JULY/AUGUST 2020 PIZZERIA TRATTO COVID has shown how swiftly businesses can adapt by reimagining what they do, says Robin Cox, a professor in the disaster and emergency management programs at Royal Roads University. "That's the kind of mind- set we need to encourage," argues Cox, who also directs the university's Resilience by Design research innovation lab, which focuses on building leadership capacity among young people and professionals in the context of disaster risk reduction and climate change. "How do you set yourself up so that you can pivot relatively quickly?" Globally, the pandemic shows the loss of life and economic chaos caused by lack of preparation for a disaster, Cox says. In her view, COVID is a crisis within a crisis— climate change, which poses big risks to B.C. As governments keep injecting vast amounts of capital into the economy, she wants to see them support clean energy and other efforts that promote a low- carbon tomorrow, as well as one-stop busi- ness recovery centres and programs that help industries like tourism adapt to com- ing disruptions. "Yes, we do need people getting back to work," Cox says. "But we need to be very smart about those invest- ments, using those stimulus dollars in ways that focus on that resilient future." Michelle Mungall, provincial minister of jobs, economic development and competi- tiveness, shares that long-term outlook. As British Columbians grappled with COVID in May, her ministry released two reports, from the Emerging Economy Task Force (EETF) and former innovation commissioner Alan Winter. In the works long before the outbreak, both try to peer ahead decades, PIZZERIA TRATTO opened in Penticton in November 2019–"the worst time of the year in any city, unless you're in Barbados," quips owner Chris Royal. But despite launching in the chill of the off-season (in a small Okanagan city, no less), the Neapolitan pizza joint found unprec- edented success. The room was buzzing Tuesday to Sunday–staff took Mondays off–and Royal, his team and their traditional domed oven worked tirelessly to keep up. The community's response was so overwhelming that Tratto discouraged patrons from get- ting takeout on Fridays and Saturdays. Carryout was on the periphery; emphasis was on the atmosphere. That all changed on March 17, when Tratto closed as part of the prov- incewide lockdown on dining out. The next day, it reopened–for takeout only. "We had a fairly slow first week; everybody was very confused as to what was going on," Royal says of the switch. But locals soon got the hang of it, and by mid-May, Tratto had tripled its weekly carryout orders. Royal says the business went through two 10-foot pallets of pizza boxes in three months. His restaurant is luckier than many others, he admits: "We serve pizza…so it's easy on our part to make that pivot." Tratto had to lay off 60 percent of its staff in mid-March, but all employees are now back on payroll. For other B.C. eateries, the shift hasn't been quite as smooth. "It's been a disaster–a crisis," says Ian Tostenson, president and CEO of the BC Restaurant and Foodservices Association (BCRFA). Tostenson explains that many restaurants run at about a 4-percent margin. "They were likely highly leveraged going into this," he explains, "so there was very little room to be able to sustain any sort of business interruption." COVID-19 exacerbated problems that have been brewing for years: Tostenson names rising rent, property taxes, the employer health tax, increasing minimum wage, utili- ties and the carbon tax. "Restaurants were getting frustrated because of the inability to make money, even when it was busy," he says. He estimates that 30 percent of the 15,000 restau- rants in B.C. will close permanently due to the pandemic. While some establishments have cautiously reopened their dining rooms (major players like Joey Res- taurant Group and Earls Restaurants did so in May, stressing mandatory employee health checks, physical distancing and sanitization), Royal Even if consumer services return, B.C. is still mired in a deep global recession, with international travel and tourism to the province largely halted. Peacock, who points out that it took three or four years to regain all the jobs lost in 2008-09, thinks we face a slow, uneven recovery. (Provincial GDP will expand by 4.8 percent in 2021, the BCBC pro- jected in June.) "The structure of the economy is going to look quite differ- ent coming out of this crisis than it did going in." Over the coming pages, you'll hear from local businesses in a wide vari- ety of industries that are helping shape this new economy. Although COVID has caused enormous destruction and hardship for some companies and entrepreneurs, it's created opportunities for others. Does the pandemic also offer us a chance to build a more economically resilient B.C.? R E S T A U R A N T S Order Up SOME EATERIES HAVE FOUND THE PANDEMIC EASIER TO SWALLOW THAN OTHERS. FOR THOSE THAT SURVIVE IN WHAT WAS ALREADY A TOUGH BUSINESS, DINING OUT WILL BE DIFFERENT DOUGH AS I SAY Penticton's Pizzeria Tratto is being cau- tious about opening its dining room again

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