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COVID-19 causes Lacombe restaurants to make unprecedented changes

Cilantro and Chive, Leto’s shift to take-out and delivery

Editors Note: Cilantro and Chive has since chosen to close its doors entirely since this story was published

COVID-19 has caused many businesses in Lacombe to make drastic changes to their operations.

For Rieley Kay, Cilantro and Chive owner, that has meant reduced staffing and the closure of their bar and dining room service.

“For us, it wasn’t necessarily a forced closure. It was something we took very seriously to ensure our community and guests were cared for and looked after. We are trying to be as safe as we can,” he said.

Changes to their staffing has weighed heavy on Kay and his management team.

“We have 60-something staff that rely on us. That is 60 mortgage payments, 60 dance lessons, 60 car payments, 60 grocery bills and that is something that weighs really heavy on us,” he said. “That is something we have taken very seriously from the days we opened our doors to the day we close them. It weighs heavy on our minds what we can do to help support our team and make sure they are being looked after and supported as a community.”

Cilantro and Chive has since shifted to take-out and delivery service with an expansive focus on cleanliness and safety for staff and customers.

“We are ramping up our cleaning procedures. After every debit machine gets used, we have Lysol wipes and sanitizer to ensure every surface that is being touched is being cleaned as quickly and efficiently as possible,” he said.

“With our staff, we making sure they are taking the time they need to regroup and recharge. Even though the shifts are shorter, everything is weighing on people’s mind and that can affect their health. We want to make sure they are being looked after.”

With the pandemic causing daily changes, Cilantro and Chive is taking everyone day-by-day, hour-by-hour.

“Some days, we are wondering if we are doing the right thing and then we get messages come through our Facebook and Twitter that give us the recharge we need, ensuring we are bringing some sort of normalcy during trying times,” he said. “We just got a message this morning from someone who picked up a feature for us and was able to reconnect with their dad from a safe distance. That is huge for us.”

Kay said they will continue to do what they can do to help the community.

“We are going to keep doing what we do each and every day and try to do our best to ensure we are looking after people. We want to ensure the decisions we make are the best ones for us, our team and our community,” he said.

The changes in the community has allowed Kay and his team to, safely, connect with other businesses and restaurants.

“If anything, it has given us a chance to reconnect with some people we wouldn’t have an opportunity to on a daily basis. We are here having fun and our team is having a great time getting things looked after,” he said.

Leto’s Steakhouse and Bar in Lacombe has also had to make similar changes to their operations in light of COVID-19.

“We have to put the safety of our customers and staff first,” George Saganis, co-0wner and general manager at Leto’s Steakhouse and Bar, said.

Saganis said it was hard to lay-off 90 per cent of their staff — who are basically family.

“To not have work for them is really tough to watch. Everyone struggled with it but they all understood. We did lay-off 90 per cent of our staff. We just have a couple staff that stayed on to help with cooking and delivery,” he said. “There is not much we can do. It is a situation we don’t have a tonne of control over and we are trying to make the best of it.”

Saganis said they intent to bring everyone back once things become more clear.

“Obviously we don’t have a crystal ball and can’t guess how long this will last for. At the same time, as soon as we are back up and fully-functional — we will bring them all back,” he said.

Saganis said they wanted to be able to continue delivery and take-out in Lacombe to give people a break from home-cooking in tough times.

“People want to change it up and we want to be able to offer that service. We have been offering take-out in Lacombe for 40 years and we have a solid customer base. People have reached out in multiple ways to let us know they are happy we are still able to offer that,” he said.

In order to provide those services safely, Leto’s has upped their cleaning routines.

“We increased our sanitizing stations from the supply company. Our counter-tops are sanitized after every use and our pin pads and iPads are wiped down after every use,” he said. “As our delivery leaves the building, the bags are sealed at the top so there is no more point of contact.

“That is good for our drivers as well because we have had customers call and say they are on self-quarantine because they have been travelling. They have wanted their food just dropped off at the door and we have been accepting payments online, which makes it easier.”

Saganis said it is important for everyone to stick together through strange times.

“It is odd to drive around Lacombe and not see a soul out there. Everyone has to be patient until we all get through this. We are a community,” he said.


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