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Acquiring Food During a Pandemic
#1
Yesterday, Andrew Coppolino had an interesting article on the local CBC site.
  
Restaurants pivot to selling groceries during COVID shutdown

He points out that a growing number of restaurants in the Region are starting to sell groceries, vegetables and almost anything else to stay in business.  He mentions Ambrosia Corner Bakery,  Little Mushroom Catering, Café Pyrus, Cambridge Restaurant, Sugo on Surrey in Guelph and many others.

Selling groceries at a restaurant is something new to these establishments but many so called ‘ethenic’ restaurants have been doing this since they opened.  I’ve been to several Latino/Mexican restaurants and most of them sell groceries from ‘back home.’  Many good restaurants have always sold their signature sauce, dips, etc. but this is different.  I’ve even seen groceries in non-ethnic restaurants too.  Check out Stoyles Food Market in Galt.  I know it mainly for its wonderful, fresh, Fish and Chips.  Most people go there to eat Fish and Chips or for takeout.  But they do have all kinds of groceries from Newfoundland lining one side of the place.  

Restaurants selling groceries is the flip side of grocery stores, especially large ones, selling ready-to-eat foods.  In this pandemic, restaurants really can’t allow the large grocery stores to become little restaurants.  For them this convergence is not ideal.

Shopping for food.

Over the last week or so we’ve ventured out to get some groceries.  Most grocery stores were doing their part in sanitizing and social distancing.  Some were better than others.

  • Real Canadian SuperStore met all the requirements for safety.
  • Valu-Mart, in the Frederick Mall, where I do most of my groceries (because it’s close), met all the requirements.
  • Italo Foods on River Road had almost no visible signs of social distancing.  I was very surprised to see that the olive bar was still self-serve.  So were the breads and buns.
  • Euro Food on Highland had social distancing markers but the store always seems to have too many customers at one time.  At least the self-serve breads, buns and Pączki was not available the last time I was there.
  • T&T was the best place for social distancing and safety.  They took my temperature before they allowed me in.  That was a first for me!  They also sprayed sanitizer on my hand.  All the shopping carts were disinfected.  Hot take-out food was available but it was not self-serve.  Everything was packaged.  They get an A+ from me.
Since I enjoy cooking we haven’t ordered much take-out or delivery since the lock-down started.  

  • We ordered some pick-up from Mei King on Margaret Avenue.  Very routine.
  • We ordered pick-up from Arabesque on Victoria Street.  We had to call the order in and when we got there they brought the food to the car.
  • We got some cooking sauces and soups from Classic Indian on Wissler Road in Waterloo.   The restaurant is closed but if you call ahead they will make what you want and you can pick it up at an arranged time.
  • We ordered a pie from Sweet and Savoury Pie Company on Bridge Street.  We had to call about three days in advance to order.  Then you have a 15 minute window to pick it up.  
  • We ordered a “No Contact Delivery” pizza from Papa John’s.  We were just curious about the pizza and the delivery.  Nothing special about either.  

I would be interested to read about your experiences getting food at this time.
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#2
Sobey's, Fresco, Zehrs, Super Centre, Dollarama and SDM all appear to be doing the appropriate distancing things, with control over the number of people in the store, one-way aisles and distancing markers. Some offer hand cleaners at entry/exit as well.

Smaller stores, such as Kishki, B&T and New City are doing some queing gaps and have shields for the cashiers, but are not controlling entry into the stores. Full Circle controlled access and gaps, and the staff will fill your containers for bulk items.

Have not ordered takeaway since this started. On the upside, my cooking skills are definitely improving. Smile
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#3
I've only been shopping at Zehr's Stanley Park. They are setup to restrict the number of people in the store, but I've never had them stop people. No reusable shopping bags are allowed.

There's no self-serve hot food or bulk food. They've put arrows on the floor of aisles so that everyone travels in one direction, but many people don't pay attention to them.
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#4
I've been to the sobeys and food basics on highland, they've evolved over the course of this and food basics checkouts work like the lineup at the bank now, which is nice since it allows big gaps between shoppers. They've also renovated so they have more room to do this. The sobeys store is smaller but they had screens for the cashiers (as did basics) and also kept a headcount of people in the store. The last time I was by they'd fashioned a fence of shopping carts to corral people into the lineup to get into the store. They had some lean shelves but lots of choices, though sold out of frozen fruit it seems, I guess a lot of people are making smoothies at home now.

I was thinking of doing a bulk barn trip, they have a curbside pickup option now but it's pretty basic.
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#5
I've mostly stuck to Zehrs Laurentian and No Frills Forest Glen (hey, guess my neighbourhood!). Zehrs is more formalized (one door to enter, another to leave, directional aisles, partitions for checkout lines) while No Frills is a bit less so due to space constraints, but they both count entries and exits and control accordingly.

One helpful thing NF has done, (like Superstore - I did visit once) is remove the coin control on shopping carts. One less surface to get your fingers all over.
My Twitter: @KevinLMaps
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#6
I actually haven't been out grocery shopping since very early March. We had a fair bit in our freezer, but we've also eaten out, and ordered a couple of meal kits (Chefs Plate, e.g.,). I think we are going to have to go shopping the end of next week though, I've been considering trying some delivery options, like instacart or getbutter, but I'm unsure how the experience will be.
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#7
(04-26-2020, 11:14 PM)danbrotherston Wrote: I actually haven't been out grocery shopping since very early March. We had a fair bit in our freezer, but we've also eaten out, and ordered a couple of meal kits (Chefs Plate, e.g.,).  I think we are going to have to go shopping the end of next week though, I've been considering trying some delivery options, like instacart or getbutter, but I'm unsure how the experience will be.

Where can you eat out these days?  I thought that was a no-no.
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#8
I ordered from Instacart twice in March. My first experience, which was during the week of March 20, was fantastic. The shopper was on point, everything arrived great and I was super impressed.

My second experience, the following week, was worse but not terrible. In the second trip, the frozen goods I had ordered were scattered throughout all the bags and everything had thawed. That's in large part because of the lines that were at the store at the time I think, the last item was shopped and something like 30 minutes passed before it was noted that they were on their way. I contacted Instacart and they compensated me for the lost items. 

In both cases the quality of the produce was adequate or great, but if you're picky about it I might be wary. I definitely won't order frozen items for delivery again, at least until there are better systems for dealing with wait times or until it's okay for delivery services to bring insulated containers into stores or something.

I haven't ordered delivery from Instacart again, mostly because the order times stretched out to over a week. Some folks need deliveries, but my partner or I can pretty easily get to groceries in the day time anyway which we've been doing since. We're very close to a grocery store so it is relatively easy to pop over and decide whether or not to go in based on the lines.

Tuesdays at 9:30am have worked well for us the past few weeks at Laurentian Zehrs as well as the Food Basics and Dollarama on Fairway. As a broad rule, we aim to get out for supplies in windows between 9 and 11 in the morning or 1:30 to 3:30 in the afternoon on Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Thursdays.

We also did a large curbside pickup order from Stemmler's a couple of weeks back. That order was placed online and we were given a pickup time a few days later. It was a Saturday afternoon and there was a line outside the store at the time (with physical distancing being respected) but we did the standard curtsied flow of park, call with our spot number, and the food went directly into the back of our van. We stopped for maple syrup at our preferred farm on the way home, too.

I'm also hopeful for spring crops, and plan on roaming out on my bike perhaps to find some roadside stalls.
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#9
It's not groceries, but I was really impressed with Best Buy. I was able to reserve the item online. I was then notified that it was available the same day. When I arrived, I told someone outside the store that I had an item reserved and they radioed in my name. I then waited briefly and then they let me in the store vestibule where they had a station setup for me to pay (touchless through Google Pay worked, even though it was close to a $200 purchase), and then passed my item across to me. The whole interaction was quick, smooth, and I didn't ever come within 6' of anyone else. It sounds like a far cry from what I've heard is a nightmare experience with Canada Computers right now.
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#10
(04-27-2020, 06:31 AM)jgsz Wrote:
(04-26-2020, 11:14 PM)danbrotherston Wrote: I actually haven't been out grocery shopping since very early March. We had a fair bit in our freezer, but we've also eaten out, and ordered a couple of meal kits (Chefs Plate, e.g.,).  I think we are going to have to go shopping the end of next week though, I've been considering trying some delivery options, like instacart or getbutter, but I'm unsure how the experience will be.

Where can you eat out these days?  I thought that was a no-no.

I misspoke, eaten out = ordered in or picked up.  The point is, I did not cook the food in my house.
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#11
(04-27-2020, 08:36 AM)robdrimmie Wrote: I ordered from Instacart twice in March. My first experience, which was during the week of March 20, was fantastic. The shopper was on point, everything arrived great and I was super impressed.

My second experience, the following week, was worse but not terrible. In the second trip, the frozen goods I had ordered were scattered throughout all the bags and everything had thawed. That's in large part because of the lines that were at the store at the time I think, the last item was shopped and something like 30 minutes passed before it was noted that they were on their way. I contacted Instacart and they compensated me for the lost items. 

In both cases the quality of the produce was adequate or great, but if you're picky about it I might be wary. I definitely won't order frozen items for delivery again, at least until there are better systems for dealing with wait times or until it's okay for delivery services to bring insulated containers into stores or something.

I haven't ordered delivery from Instacart again, mostly because the order times stretched out to over a week. Some folks need deliveries, but my partner or I can pretty easily get to groceries in the day time anyway which we've been doing since. We're very close to a grocery store so it is relatively easy to pop over and decide whether or not to go in based on the lines.

Tuesdays at 9:30am have worked well for us the past few weeks at Laurentian Zehrs as well as the Food Basics and Dollarama on Fairway. As a broad rule, we aim to get out for supplies in windows between 9 and 11 in the morning or 1:30 to 3:30 in the afternoon on Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Thursdays.

We also did a large curbside pickup order from Stemmler's a couple of weeks back. That order was placed online and we were given a pickup time a few days later. It was a Saturday afternoon and there was a line outside the store at the time (with physical distancing being respected) but we did the standard curtsied flow of park, call with our spot number, and the food went directly into the back of our van. We stopped for maple syrup at our preferred farm on the way home, too.

I'm also hopeful for spring crops, and plan on roaming out on my bike perhaps to find some roadside stalls.

I don't have a car, so I'm really not sure how a curbside pickup order would work from these places, I've also noticed some of them will not delivery to multi-residential buildings. It's kind of put me off those options.

Biking to roadside stalls is a great idea, I did at one point locate the OK Egg farm, but I'm not sure if they would have a roadside stall. The one weakness of this is the likely need for cash.

I will probably try instacart at some point, the frozen foods tip is a good one, but that is too bad, since frozen veggies is how I've avoided shopping for a month. I've noticed delivery slots are more available now, so perhaps things are getting more settled.
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#12
(04-27-2020, 08:36 AM)robdrimmie Wrote: ...We also did a large curbside pickup order from Stemmler's a couple of weeks back. That order was placed online and we were given a pickup time a few days later. It was a Saturday afternoon and there was a line outside the store at the time (with physical distancing being respected) but we did the standard curtsied flow of park, call with our spot number, and the food went directly into the back of our van. We stopped for maple syrup at our preferred farm on the way home, too...

We were at Stemmler’s on Thursday (I love that place).  I didn’t know they had curbside service.  But even if I knew, I prefer to pick my own meat, fruits and veggies.
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#13
(04-26-2020, 04:03 PM)tomh009 Wrote: Smaller stores, such as Kishki, B&T and New City are doing some queing gaps and have shields for the cashiers, but are not controlling entry into the stores. Full Circle controlled access and gaps, and the staff will fill your containers for bulk items.

I've been wondering how B&T was handling things since they are very close to us. We've avoided going there since this whole thing started because the store has very small aisles and was always packed and we've seen no noticeable line up in front of the store which led us to believe they weren't controlling entry. 

Most of our groceries get ordered using Instacart. We started using instacart around the beginning of winter because we don't have a car and walking with an elementary aged child to get food was a bit of a pain. The only issues with our orders have been the occasional missed item that is refunded immediately. The wait time for orders seems to have be cut down. Placed an order yesterday that had a scheduled date from 26-28th and anticipated it coming on the 28th when we ordered. Surprisingly it ended up getting delivered yesterday. 

We've also placed a couple of orders for curbside pick up at Golden Hearth the last few weeks. You order online through their website, pick a pick up date and time then call when you arrive. They place it on a table in front of the store and once they go back inside you grab your bag. It's gone smoothly each time and I'm thrilled to be able to still get their delicious pastries and help support them. I think we might be spending more money there than before. They also have delivery for an additional fee.
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#14
(04-27-2020, 09:37 AM)danbrotherston Wrote: I don't have a car, so I'm really not sure how a curbside pickup order would work from these places, I've also noticed some of them will not delivery to multi-residential buildings. It's kind of put me off those options.

Biking to roadside stalls is a great idea, I did at one point locate the OK Egg farm, but I'm not sure if they would have a roadside stall. The one weakness of this is the likely need for cash.

I will probably try instacart at some point, the frozen foods tip is a good one, but that is too bad, since frozen veggies is how I've avoided shopping for a month. I've noticed delivery slots are more available now, so perhaps things are getting more settled.

In the places I've done curbside pickup the process is always to call when you arrive, and let the person know which numbered spot you are in. In those circumstances my expectation would be to take a spot with the bike, and just let the person know on the phone that I'm riding and they can place the package down and I'll pack it into my bags myself. I think accommodating cyclists will take a little bit of practice, but I expect most places will be able to make it workable. I think the largest barrier is cargo space. I certainly wouldn't have been able to ride my Stemmler's order home but that was a "stock the freezer for the summer" sort of trip for us.

Cash is problematic, I agree. I figure in most cases I'll try to fill my basket up enough to get things to a point where I'm comfortable rounding up, which isn't something everyone will be able to do. At some point the right thing for their businesses may very well be to accept cashless transactions, and technologies with clear business value can be adopted by mennonite communities more readily than technologies for personal use. I think a lot of market stalls, even Mennonite-owned and run, were already accepting transactions. With fully wireless pin pads like those used by delivery services as long as there's cell phone coverage they wouldn't even need electricity or internet access on the farm itself.

I have no idea what is actually practical for small downtown grocers like Full Circle or Legacy Greens, but if you had a significant order of frozen items they might be able to help get those items in via their distributors perhaps?
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#15
(04-27-2020, 09:37 AM)danbrotherston Wrote:
(04-27-2020, 08:36 AM)robdrimmie Wrote: I ordered from Instacart twice in March. My first experience, which was during the week of March 20, was fantastic. The shopper was on point, everything arrived great and I was super impressed.

My second experience, the following week, was worse but not terrible. In the second trip, the frozen goods I had ordered were scattered throughout all the bags and everything had thawed. That's in large part because of the lines that were at the store at the time I think, the last item was shopped and something like 30 minutes passed before it was noted that they were on their way. I contacted Instacart and they compensated me for the lost items. 

In both cases the quality of the produce was adequate or great, but if you're picky about it I might be wary. I definitely won't order frozen items for delivery again, at least until there are better systems for dealing with wait times or until it's okay for delivery services to bring insulated containers into stores or something.

I haven't ordered delivery from Instacart again, mostly because the order times stretched out to over a week. Some folks need deliveries, but my partner or I can pretty easily get to groceries in the day time anyway which we've been doing since. We're very close to a grocery store so it is relatively easy to pop over and decide whether or not to go in based on the lines.

Tuesdays at 9:30am have worked well for us the past few weeks at Laurentian Zehrs as well as the Food Basics and Dollarama on Fairway. As a broad rule, we aim to get out for supplies in windows between 9 and 11 in the morning or 1:30 to 3:30 in the afternoon on Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Thursdays.

We also did a large curbside pickup order from Stemmler's a couple of weeks back. That order was placed online and we were given a pickup time a few days later. It was a Saturday afternoon and there was a line outside the store at the time (with physical distancing being respected) but we did the standard curtsied flow of park, call with our spot number, and the food went directly into the back of our van. We stopped for maple syrup at our preferred farm on the way home, too.

I'm also hopeful for spring crops, and plan on roaming out on my bike perhaps to find some roadside stalls.

I don't have a car, so I'm really not sure how a curbside pickup order would work from these places, I've also noticed some of them will not delivery to multi-residential buildings. It's kind of put me off those options.

Biking to roadside stalls is a great idea, I did at one point locate the OK Egg farm, but I'm not sure if they would have a roadside stall. The one weakness of this is the likely need for cash.

I will probably try instacart at some point, the frozen foods tip is a good one, but that is too bad, since frozen veggies is how I've avoided shopping for a month. I've noticed delivery slots are more available now, so perhaps things are getting more settled.
 You usually have to call the shop when you arrive for "curbside pickup", so I doubt it's relevant whether you arrive in a vehicle or not.
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