Coupon book a boon to local restos, charity

Coupon book a boon to local restos, charity

Shaun Jeffrey, executive director of the Manitoba Restaurant and Foodservices Association (MRFA), doesn’t have to think long and hard when asked about dining spots in the city that were forced to lock their doors for good in 2020, owing to the fallout from COVID-19.

Besides Hermano’s Restaurant and Wine Bar in the East Exchange and Stella’s Café and Bakery’s flagship location in Osborne Village, Jeffrey cites a Stradbrook Avenue mainstay that was once voted among the top 100 restaurants in the country. “It’s sad to lose even one, but when a place like Segovia closes, it’s time to act because quite frankly, we can’t afford to lose any more (restaurants),” Jeffrey says when reached at his office.

In time for holiday gift-giving, the association, which represents more than 500 restaurant owners in the province, has teamed up with the Dream Factory, a charitable organization devoted to making dreams come true for children battling life-threatening diseases. The fruit of their labour is the Dine Manitoba Restaurant Guide, a savings book that may look somewhat familiar to those who prefer to let someone else do the cooking.

“A lot of people remember those Entertainment coupon books that schools and sports teams used to sell as fundraisers, so we thought, why not put together something similar, something that would require little to no explanation how to use,” Jeffrey says of the coil-bound book, which, beginning this week, can be ordered through the MRFA’s website.

Jeffrey calls the tome, which retails for $20 and offers more than $2,000 in savings at 45 different locales, a win-win. A quarter of the sale price of every book will be directed to the restaurant association. Another $5 will go to the Dream Factory, with the remainder covering costs related to the project. While the restaurant industry has been one of the hardest hit in the last nine months, association members fully recognize things haven’t exactly been peachy keen for charities such as the Dream Factory either, Jeffrey says.

“The Dream Factory in particular has been absolutely decimated this year with the loss of some of its main, revenue generating options, things like a golf tournament, dragon boat races and an annual auction in the spring that is always a sell-out,” he says. “We partnered with them last year to create a dream for a little girl named Carmen so when we started thinking of charities we could raise funds for through something like a coupon book, it was a no-brainer to go with them.”

Daniel Crump / Winnipeg Free Press</p>
<p>For every book sold, $5 goes to the Dream Factory.</p>
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Daniel Crump / Winnipeg Free Press

For every book sold, $5 goes to the Dream Factory.

Joe Loschaivo, owner of Pasquale’s Italian Ristorante at 109 Marion St., came up with the idea for the Dine Manitoba guide in the spring, a couple of weeks before the province began lifting some of the dining restrictions associated with the first lock-down. As people were popping by on Friday night to pick up a curbside order, many mentioned they aren’t the type to get take-out on a regular basis. However, they recognized the plight restaurateurs were in, and felt it was their duty to support owners and workers by reaching for the phone at least once a week, they told him.

“In early May, I called some of my fellow (restaurant) owners and asked if they were getting the same kind of feedback as me,” Loschaivo says over the phone. “When they told me yeah, they were hearing the exact same thing, I started thinking why not put together some kind of savings book as our way of saying thanks. The truth of the matter is, it’s not only restaurant owners who’ve taken a hit in 2020. A lot of Manitobans are having a tough time, as well, so why not offer them a bit of a deal?”

Savings range from 15 per cent off of pick-up and take-out orders to two-for-one lunch specials. All of the restaurants involved are independently owned. They range from fine dining spots such as Fusion Grill and SMITH Restaurant to more casual hang-outs such as Shawarma Khan and Le Garage. Some owners told Loschaivo they “don’t do couponing” when he approached them initially; to which he replied, hey, desperate times call for desperate measures.

“I said I wasn’t asking them to give the farm away, but I felt it was important to show appreciation to the public for having our back through all of this, at which point almost everybody said, ‘Yeah, you’re right.’ Throw in the part about raising money for the Dream Factory and they were ecstatic to sign on.”

Loschaivo expects ordered copies to begin arriving in the mail next week. He and those involved are hoping corporations will step up to the plate by ordering guide books for their entire staff, as a stocking stuffer-type gift.

“We’re a dining city and province, always have been, and people truly miss having the opportunity to head out to their local restaurant or pub to enjoy themselves with friends and family,” Loschaivo says. “Welcoming people into our places of work isn’t just what we do for a living, it’s our way of life. We hope the book gives them the incentive to come back and see us in person, when it’s safe to do so.”


Published at Thu, 03 Dec 2020 09:00:00 +0000

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