Businesses Innovate Amidst the COVID-19 Crisis

As the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic surface, Vancouver businesses are finding ways to innovate. Times are tough and margins are slim, but many are finding ways to pivot and meet the changing needs of their customer base. 

Phil Tapping, Operator of The Gull Bar and Kitchen has pivoted his business model as he can no longer serve guests seated in his restaurant. He has moved to posting weekly specials on Instagram, creating take-home food options such as freshly baked bread, condiments and hummus, and even taking pre-orders for specials such as rib night Thursday. The Gull is operating with a bare bones staff of those who want to keep working. The business has taken a massive revenue hit, although Tapping notes that the Federal Government’s wage subsidy will help tremendously. Right now he is focusing on how to maintain safety for his staff and patrons while finding ways to keep the business going. 

Jesse Neate, JJ Bean’s Retail Leader operates cafes in Metro Vancouver and Toronto. The company has been forced to close all of their Ontario locations and 9 of their 20 cafes in BC due to staffing challenges. Sales are down tremendously and many employees are anxious about continuing to serve the general public during the pandemic. JJ Bean is employing strict social distancing practices, using tape and signage, is not accepting cash, and has shut down all their public washrooms. The successful coffee chain’s business model is focused on inviting patrons to spend time in their cafes and interact with their friendly staff. They have recently signed up for DoorDash and Uber Eats to facilitate take-out orders and are looking for more ways to adapt.

Denise Elliott, owner of Denise Elliott Beauty Co is pivoting her business to adapt with the times. The company offers make-up and hair services and also sells retail products. Elliott is shifting her product stock to address the changing needs of her customers. She recently ordered root touch-up spray as patrons are not able to come in for their hair appointments. This isn’t something she normally carries. She is also creating do-it-yourself dye kits using professional products.  Elliott is finding creative ways to stay in touch with her customer base through broadcasting online tutorials to address questions customers are asking during this time.

Undoubtedly, service industries will be hit hard during this time of uncertainty. However, many local businesses are finding innovative ways to adapt and stay in touch with their clientele.