Award-winning Feast Cafe & Bistro on Ellice Avenue has been a beacon of hope, unity and awareness for the Indigenous community in Manitoba since 2015.
Founded by Christa Bruneau-Guenther, Feast aimed to bring awareness to Manitoba’s rich Indigenous culture through a celebration of its food.
Driven by community, yet centred around the culinary, Feast has been enjoying incredible success, often feeding 500 to 1000 people a day through its bistro and event catering services.
When Covid began ravaging the health of the province, the health of this thriving local business also fell victim to its effects.
“The first week of Covid, we saw over $100,000 of catering business disappear overnight. It was really scary,” says Bruneau-Guenther “With catering being the backbone of the business, and never really doing take-out before, we decided to just shut everything down.”
With environmental responsibility and sustainability at the core of the business, the initial challenge centred around preparing and donating the huge quantity of surplus food and putting it to good use.With that settled, Christa’s focus reluctantly turned to the challenge of what to do with her staff.
Heartbreakingly, she’d have to let her team go.
“Laying off my staff was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I couldn’t get out of bed for days. I was scared for them, being so vulnerable already, and it was devastating to think about the effects it would have on them and their families.”
After riding out the new restrictions for a few months, on June 23, Feast re-opened its doors, hiring a few staff back as dine-in returned, though catering was still incredibly slow.
Navigating unknowable service demands, learning cleaning protocols, and cross-training every member of their skeleton crew in case of sickness were just a few of the challenges they faced.
As dine-in demand slowly returned and a new opportunity to provide meals to the West End Cultural Centre for events blossomed into an unexpected and very welcome revenue stream, things were looking up.
Then the province hit Code Red.
When asked what she’d want Manitoban’s to know about what it is like as a local restaurant owner trying to weather this unforgiving and unpredictable season, Christa shared,
“I think it’s good to remember that we are the backbone of the local economy. We buy local products, employ local people, and buy from local farmers. I think now is a great time to explore other ways to support locally owned businesses.”
She referenced an Instagram post Feast shared earlier that month that gained national notoriety. It educated people about the financial downside of using third-party delivery services instead of curbside pick-up or in-house delivery options from local restaurants.
And when asked how people can best support the restaurant right now, in true Feast fashion, community well-being took first place on her list.
“I’d like people to check out our Indigenous Feast Boxes Initiative that is helping us raise money to support local families in need. Beyond that, Covid has spurred us into take-out and deliveries, sourcing new products like wild rice and indigenous teas, and getting our grab-and-go market up quickly where we offer baking, ready to cook meals and some of our favourite sauces.”
So as you entertain a holiday season quite unlike any other this year, consider an unforgettable meal for your holiday fare to match it.
To support the Indigenous Feast Box Initiative visit their GoFundMe page, or visit their website.
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