In spring 2020, Mai Thai Restaurant owners were acutely feeling the negative impacts of COVID-19 on their food service operations. They quickly realized their business operations would have to pivot if they hoped to be able to operate as health restrictions eased around the virus. On June 16, they applied to Northern Development’s Small Business Recovery (SBR) Consulting Rebate program to receive financial help to assist with the pivot. Their determination to have a restaurant to return to when restaurants were able to open again, was evident from the beginning.
“We had to stay in business,” said Dale McDermid, secretary, Mai Thai Restaurant. “We were committed to changing along with these unexpected times and to continue serving the evolving downtown Prince George area and residents. Our old ways of operating were no longer relevant and we needed to find a way to be more involved with our customers. We knew that if we could be more active on digital and social media that we would be more prosperous.”
Mai Thai Restaurant contracted a local agency to vastly improve their online presence. The four-month project resulted in the creation of a brand-new website with online ordering capabilities, the development of a digital and social media marketing strategy, brand guidelines, and visual assets, as well as training for staff to integrate the new tools into daily operations. Combined, these tools help Mai Thai Restaurant regularly communicate with their customers while supporting their desired transition from dine-in service to takeout and delivery.
“You saved our restaurant,” McDermid said upon the completion of the project. “We have increased our sales and we have just begun. Your backing and the consultant ensured we would ride out this COVID-19 slow down. We will only get better. Thank you. As we get better and COVID eases, we will keep updating our menu and diversifying it. For example, we will have weekly street food specials. This was not possible before because we could not talk directly to our customers.”
As business continues to increase after the completion of the project, Mai Thai Restaurant anticipates adding more people to their staff. Positions they expect to create are for cooks and delivery drivers.
In April 2020, Northern Development announced SBR to assist businesses in a wide variety of industries who were impacted by the economic downturn. The new rebate program replaced the previous Forestry Affected Business Consulting Rebate that had been launched in 2019 to help businesses who were impacted by the downturn in the forestry industry. In 2020, all the funds available through SBR were committed to projects. The program will begin accepting applications again on January 1, 2021.