The Cost of Doing Business for the Badly Battered Hospitality Sector

News 100 blueBy Michele Bogle

August 5th, 2020



The ‘in-tent’ of this article is to shed light on a new cost of doing business in Burlington.

Stage 3 has provided restaurateurs the ability to bring patrons inside but several of the owners I talked to said they didn’t feel the public was ready for that step.

Bogle - Martini House

The Martini House had a limited amount of space and managed to make it work. Candlelight at night didn’t hurt.

You may have noticed an increasing number of tents popping up around the city for the past month; I toured the tents at Jake’s Grill & Oyster House, Stacked, The Martini House, The Poacher and Jack Astor’s.

The question for the owners of these restaurants isn’t, “How can they not, but rather, can owners actually afford to?”

For those with space, some restaurants have included a tent to an expanded patio setup. For others like The Martini House, space is at a premium so they got creative with the size and number of tents.

Some have spent hundreds of dollars adorning the tents in an effort to mirror that same ‘dining-in’ experience.

Customers are enjoying the tents for larger groups: “We feel like we’re all together this way than at separate patio tables.” Another mentioned that, “With the lights on under the tent, it’s more romantic.”

Jakes Bar and Grill

Jake’s Grill & Oyster House went for the high end tent.

While the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario waived fees for licensing under the tents until January 1, 2021 as long as they are COVID-19 safety compliant, the average sized 15’ x 30’ tent rentals start at $500 per day.

Some, who don’t require special customizations, have bought and others have borrowed.

Most owners still offer curbside service and delivery with apps like SkipTheDishes, Uber Eats and DoorDash, but the apps charge, on average, thirty percent per order.

In an attempt to give relief to restaurants during the onset of COVID-19, Uber Eats and DoorDash waived the delivery fee, but only until May. Now the popular apps run assorted promotions like DoorDash who ‘waived delivery fee’ on the first order over $15.

The Poacher’s owner, who has a huge space that will seat 70, admits that the use of the tents makes business barely sustainable in the short term. For obvious reasons, rainy weather like we’ve had for consecutive days now, has a significant impact on business. Owners are looking to October as the magic month of cooler weather that will bring customers back inside the premises.

Bogle WHO A

For those who have the space – a reasonably large outdoor operation can be set up. The Poacher has space for 70 people.

As a sign of loyalty to the customers many of the restaurants haven’t raised their prices.

In an effort to keep the lights on inside of your favourite eateries, will you consider ‘dining-out’? This sector needs the help and being able to get out for a meal with friends is something that will cheer you up as well.

Michele Bogle is a Burlington based free lance writer with a focus on the hospitality and entertainment sectors.

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3 comments to The Cost of Doing Business for the Badly Battered Hospitality Sector

  • Our only eating out for sone time yet will be outside by the BBQ. We continue to order and pick up particularly from our favorite fish and chip restaurant The Thistle using an available time slot when back in the city but prefer the tranquility of our summer home in the new norm.


    All the current regulations and restrictions inflicted on restaurants, and all other public venues, significantly detract from the enjoyment of dining out or frequenting other places and attending events that I previously regularly enjoyed. I’m totally ready to resume my active pre-COVID life, but certainly not under the current confines imposed on all everywhere without end.

  • Penny Hersh

    NOT YET. Too many unknowns.