The Moody Cow among many Aurora restaurants that improved their game during the COVID-19 pandemic
Angela Zaccagnini and Jonathan Templar were prepared for the routine problems of opening a new restaurant when they received the keys to the business on January 2, 2020 – hire employees, bring their names to the community and attract customers.
Then hit COVID-19.
In the middle of March when she opened her British pub Moody Cow on Bayview Ave. Renovated in 15420, businesses had to close amid the global pandemic.
Zaccagnini, the owner, and Templar, the general manager, went ahead and opened the restaurant last September just to face changing government rules due to pandemics.
“This ups and downs was a nightmare to say the least,” said Templer.
He and Zaccagnini could have waved the white flag and surrendered. But like other Aurora restaurants, they have found innovative ways to serve customers.
“Let’s just say I’m living the dream or the nightmare, no matter which one you want to see,” laughed Templer.
“It’s definitely different. It’s not nearly what I imagined. If we hadn’t been in COVID, we would have been in a completely different situation. Unfortunately, perfect vision is 20/20, you know what I mean? There’s nothing you can do about that, so just keep going. “
The restaurant hosts a weekly cooking table, at which chef Robert Billingsley prepares menus of different courses, each paired with a suitable wine or alcoholic beverage.
On some evenings, guests are pampered with culinary experiences, while at other events they enjoy more relaxed dishes.
“You feel pampered and special,” said Zaccagnini.
When the Moody Cow started Oyster Nights a few weeks ago, they brought in a professional shucker, El Toro, the singing oyster shucker, to entertain the guests.
Themed nights cost between $ 65 and $ 95, depending on the menu.
The pandemic has changed what customers look for when they dine out and what restaurants with limited numbers of restaurants can offer, Billingsley said.
“People are looking for entertainment, so we try to come up with an idea for a meal with a limited number of customers. People are fed up with being at home eating the same things, ordering chicken wings and the like, ”he said.
“I think the future of it, at least for next year, people will go out less, but when they go out they want to be pampered.”
Ray McDonald is Co-Administrator of the Aurora Restaurants and Food News group on Facebook, along with Joey Anselmo, owner of Harvey’s Restaurant and Swiss Chalet on Yonge Street and Henderson Drive.
Now with 4,500 members, the group was formed about four years ago to generate a positive narrative about local restaurants and food options.
The Moody Cow is one of several restaurants that improved their game during the pandemic, said McDonald, a former gourmet chef known in the group as Ray Ray.
• Food in Motion, an event catering company that has switched to family dinners and express menus.
• Fishbone switched to a completely different menu outside a dinner-only restaurant to encourage takeout. In addition, employees started delivering meals.
• Casa Carbone focused on the pizza night with fresh dough and fresh pasta dishes with wine pairings.
• Baskin Robbins increased shipments dramatically by increasing the freezer space for packaged ice cream, ice cream sets and cakes for special occasions.
• Swiss Chalet / Harvey’s Henderson minimized the menu to reduce food waste and accelerated delivery to a condensed menu.
While the pandemic has hit restaurants hard, Aurora restaurateurs have recovered over the past year, McDonald said.
“You freaked out first. Like losing your mind. Then they just dug into their heels and said, “Oh, we have to make it work.” And they did. You did a fantastic job, ”he said.
“(Am I) surprised? More impressed. “
STORY BEHIND THE STORY: After being approached by Ray McDonald, reporter Lisa Queen wanted to share with readers how Aurora’s restaurants responded to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic over the past year.