2022 An Adrenalin Roller Coaster for the Restaurants of Niagara
As we find ourselves at the end of a year that many thought would bring the highly anticipated bounce back after the pandemic, we are faced with the reality that 2022 came with its own host of unique problems which continued to push everyone’s adrenaline output to a new level.
While increasing costs of pretty much everything started to have an impact on people’s spending habits, the restaurant industry was also hit with rising interest rates and debts, staff shortages and the leftovers of supply chain issues combined with the lack of US travelers due to travel restrictions in the first half of 2022.
Finding staff was not the biggest challenge for Sean and Leah Norman of Meltwich Food Co (Niagara Falls), but mounting costs and supply chain issues definitely were. “Our budget was based on opening our doors in September, but our equipment did not arrive until November while the bills kept coming”, says Sean Norman. When finally opening in December amongst ongoing restrictions, the Norman’s were excited to see how supportive their community was of their new venture. “I posted about our opening in the Restaurants of Niagara Facebook group, and I can say now for sure that this group has been integral to our success, especially in our first 4 months”, explains Norman.
Restaurants of Niagara Members witnessed closures throughout 2022
Just like the rest of Ontario, Niagara saw restaurants close their doors for good this year due to the current challenges and other personal or business reasons. Especially in the second half of the year, the closures started to add up with Bremfield’s Bakery & Café (Port Colborne), John’s Family Restaurant (NFLS), Carson’s Pub (St. Catharines), HillFire (Fonthill) and The Rib Crib & Smoke Shop (St. Catharines) joining the list of places Restaurant of Niagara members were sad to see go.
But don’t think for a minute that in 2022 the culinary scene in Niagara stopped evolving and growing. More places with exciting international flavours continue to join the scene, and established Niagara culinary veterans continue to invest in our region. Longtime residents and new Niagarans will not run out of new places to try for the foreseeable future! We’ll get to some examples shortly.
The takeout food scene in Niagara has seen a lot of changes
While at the beginning of the pandemic a lot of establishments were not set up for takeout, most have continued to offer it throughout 2022. The majority of restaurants now offer online ordering on their website or through third party apps. Both were not common here just 2 years ago!
We spoke with Tim Empringham of Dine Niagara, which according to their website “connects hungry Niagara residents to great local restaurants, without commissions, markups, and fees you’ll find in the other delivery apps!”. Empringham states that “Since the reopening of restaurants we have seen a noticeable decline in takeout volume, which has been further impacted by price increases and inflation pressures. But the one thing that does seem to remain is a keen awareness of the need to protect and support our local restaurants. Our customers are still choosing to order, where they can be sure, that their money goes to the restaurants, not commissions. That will likely be the lasting impact of the shutdowns […].”
And there are lots of new places to try and support in Niagara!
Here are just some of the new businesses to add to your “must try list”:
Niagara Falls: RT Pizza, WeinLokal, Hijabeez Shawarma & Falafel House, Flavors & Spices, Fork You – Peruvian Restaurant
St. Catharines: 1954 Bourbon & Smoke, The Course & the Club House, Khas Patti Pan Indian Cuisine
Niagara-on-the-Lake: Nolaa’s Gluten Free, Keto & Vegan Bakery & Restaurant
Ridgeway: Rizzo’s House of Parm
Port Colborne: Bambi’s Bistro
Welland: Asia Fusion
And more exciting openings are on the horizon for 2023!!
Aiming for a January opening, Industria Pizzeria + Bar will be adding their 5th Ontario location at the Pen Centre in St. Catharines.
“We are excited to be expanding our business to include Niagara. This region is growing so quickly; and with Brock University being so close, we are looking forward to opening our doors to families, students, and groups of friends!” “The Industria concept can best be described as a contemporary family style eatery with a focus on pizzas and pastas made fresh from scratch”, adds business partner John Pietrangelo, a Niagara resident and established entrepreneur.
While this article does not claim to be supplying a complete list of all closures, opening and re-openings (e.g. the recent highly anticipated reopening of Ma Chinese Cuisine in St. Catharines), one thing is for sure: the now over 70,000 member strong Restaurant of Niagara group will always contain the latest on these topics and a great way to interact with owners, managers and staff of our beloved restaurants, café, bakeries and more!
We invite you to follow our official Facebook Page @WhenInNiagara to get access to our latest blog posts and more Niagara hospitality news and join the conversation at Restaurants of Niagara.
The WhenInNiagara / Restaurants of Niagara team wishes you and yours a happy and healthy Holiday Season and a great start to 2023!