West Niagara restaurants ask visitors to be nice when dining
As vaccinations become the key to entering businesses like restaurants, the service industry is reminding customers that kindness is the best motto.
Clayton Gillie and Beth Ashton are co-owners of August Restaurant in Lincoln and You Had Me at Pizza in Grimsby. The duo also co-own Smoke and Moonshine in Lincoln with a third owner, Celynn Sullivan.
With decades of restaurant experience between the three of them, they all agree that hospitality is the main ingredient in any successful restaurant.
“Between us and our staff and our suppliers and everyone (who) deals with us, we want them to feel they can count on us,” Ashton said.
While terraces and take-out are still available to everyone, an indoor dining policy based on vaccination status makes doing business difficult, according to the owners.
“You can’t make both sides of an argument happy,” said Gillie. “It really takes away the hospitality.”
Ashton said asking clients for their medical history, much like asking if they lived in the same household earlier this year, made staff and clients uncomfortable.
The trio agreed that while their hope is to one day return to normal activities, they understand they must follow provincial legislation to keep their doors open.
At Smoke and Moonshine, a sign has been placed at the front door stating “Please be kind. We are sensitive. The sign reminds customers that while their business is always welcome, they are encouraged to leave their frustrations about the issue at the door.
“Your web host or your server, they’re stuck between doing what they’re supposed to do by law and what people perceive to be right or wrong,” said Gillie. “It’s a challenge.”
They said staff, some of whom are students, are not always qualified or emotionally equipped to deal with disgruntled customers, especially when it comes to political issues.
In the meantime, however, restaurateurs have said they are committed to ensuring that everyone can always have a pleasant experience, whether they are seated inside or outside.
“I wish I had the ruby red slippers, to say there is no place like 2019,” said Stephanie Hicks, executive director of the Downtown Bench Beamsville Business Improvement Area.
“Businesses have an obligation to protect their staff and guests, they have to do it,” she said. Hicks added that entering a business, be it a restaurant, gym or whatever, is a privilege, not a right.
“I mean to say you have to be nice.”
She said conflict management, especially when it comes to political politics, is not a task that most service workers are trained for.
Hicks said she hopes the measures are temporary and will help prevent a fourth lockdown. In the meantime, she encouraged people to continue to buy local and trust the power of compliments.
“We have to use our words and express our kindness and it will go a long way,” she said. “For an employee or business owner, just hearing them and talking to them goes a long way right now. ”
THE STORY BEHIND THE STORY: With the implementation of a service based on immunization status, reporter Moosa Imran reached out to business owners in West Niagara to explore how the new program is affecting business.