Medical mask wastage, Toronto's fully automated restaurant, Starbucks closures and more

Here are four news stories you may have missed this week.  

Although face masks have become more readily available compared to a few months ago, they are still coveted across the country at the moment, which is why it’s bothersome to learn this week that some fast food restaurants have been handing them out unnecessarily.

In Saskatchewan and Quebec, anxiety is at an all-time high for restaurant owners, as the costs and risks associated with reopening during Covid-19 grow larger. 

While these restaurants are struggling to reopen, coffee giant, Starbucks has just announced that it will be closing 200 locations in Canada. They were also in the news due to their response to the Black Lives Matter movement. 

And finally, a restaurant in Toronto is forgoing social distancing and capacity caps, as it launches a fully automated experience for customers.


Fast Food employees under fire for dumping masks

The Alberta government recently gave 20 million non-medical single-use masks to fast food restaurants such as A&W, Tim Hortons and McDonalds to be given out to customers at the drive-thru to increase the number of people masked in public. These masks are packaged in fours, and are meant to be given out by request only, and then 10 packages per person may be given based on the honour system for friends and family. This distribution plan did not go as hoped, as restaurant employees were reportedly handing out multiple packages without the customer even asking.

One Calgary customer on Twitter reported she was handed 10 packs of masks and then had the window closed on them before the customer could correct them. This has also been happening elsewhere in Alberta, where a Tim Hortons in Edmonton was also reportedly unloading them onto customers  as quickly as possible. 

Alberta Health Services noted that this is clearly against the distribution instructions, and the restaurants and their workers are under investigation.

Read more about this story from the CBC.

Anxiety around restaurant reopening rises in the hospitality industry across the Canada


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Even though restaurants across the country are opening, they are not all thriving. With the mandated 50 per cent capacity, takeout services fees, additional training requirements and other costs associated with sanitization (plexiglass separations, masks etc.), restaurants are grasping at straws to make ends meet.

Restaurants in Saskatchewan are allowed to open starting June 23, which sounds like a blessing for restaurants that are struggling, but the owner of Grassroots Restaurants Group says that re-opening costs replicate reopening a restaurant from scratch. In addition to opening costs plaguing new restaurant owners, the general bleak moral of restaurant goers is worrisome. Restaurant owners are scared their customer base won't come back even if they do re-open, after months of being told to avoid going out unless completely necessary.

Montreal restaurants, which are allowed to open starting June 22, are also facing the same fears, with the additional reason of typically small restaurant sizes. Physical distancing measures were already hard to adhere to for these small restaurants, but for bars where the culture relies on mingling with others, bar owners are afraid that customers will not come back without the ability to interact with others.

Read more about the reaction in Saskatchwan from the StarPhoenix and Montreal's reaction from the Montreal Gazette.

Starbucks to close 200 stores in Canada and faces backlash for BLM


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Starbucks announced that they are going to be closing 200 of the 1,400 cafes in Canada, regardless of the economic situation after Covid-19. They noted that this is a part of the initiative to open more locations around the world, while reducing their footprint in North America. 

In addition to this, Starbucks is in the news for their wishy-washy stance surrounding employees wearing BLM merchandise. The company originally said that employees were not allowed to wear paraphernalia to support the anti-racism movement; that was until mass backlash was unleashed against them. They have not only changed the decision since then, but they have also designed their own branded merchandise for employees to wear.

Read more about the store closures from CBC and about their policies on the Black Lives Matter movement on CTV.

No staff, No problem. Toronto's fully automated restaurant opens up


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Restaurants around the world are reducing staff and increasing autonomous operations, like offering menus online and enabling online ordering, but one Toronto restaurant is taking it a step further. 

Paramount Fine Foods, a multifaceted Middle Eastern hospitality company that began in Mississauga, Ont., is opening a fully automated quick service restaurant named Box'd. 

There will only be one chef dedicated to your meal, who then delivers to sanitized, individual lockers where customers can pick up their meal, with no interaction with others. 

Paramount teamed up with chef Tomer Markovitz of Parallel to create the quick and accessible menu, which includes lunch and dinner options like black truffle hummus, chimichurri striploin wraps, and maple honey lemonade and wedge salads, all wrapped in sustainable packaging. 

Read more about this new eatery from the Daily Hive.