Diversity Food Services has reinvented itself amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The social enterprise, which operates six food outlets at The University of Winnipeg, is now doing curbside delivery of both hot meals and groceries.
“We asked ourselves how we could help the most people,” said Ian Vickers, Diversity’s Chief Operating Officer. “As far as I know, we’re the first restaurant in Winnipeg to make this pivot to grocery products.”
Unlike a lot of other restaurants that are shutting down, completely closing Diversity was never a realistic option for Vickers.
Instead, the focus was on keeping the local supply chain happy, customers happy, and keeping as many jobs as they could.
“We were sitting around during our management meeting when chef Jessica Young looked at us and said, ‘No one is going to make groceries like ours available,’” Vickers recalled.
And thus, the idea was born.
Shortly afterwards, Melanie Gerodias-Mitchell, Diversity’s Catering and Events Manager, and Matt Handscombe, Diversity’s Information Coordinator, made a plan. Handscombe learned how to create an e-commerce page and then put one together on Diversity’s website.
Initially, the menu included everything Diversity sells to Vita Health. However, that quickly expanded to everything from Bothwell Cheese and butter from Notre Dame Creamery to fresh pickerel from their source up north and Nature’s Farm organic eggs.
“We’re basically doing this as a community service to our customers and vendors, and making sure when people need groceries that there are sustainable, ethical, and local options available,” Vickers said.
They’ve even gone as far as to ask their coffee supplier, Fratello, to now provide them with two-pound bags of coffee instead of their normal 50-pound orders.
Since the launch, Diversity has been receiving around 20 orders a day.
“Those orders basically mean we’re keeping employed a delivery driver, someone to manage everything, four chefs, and a deli team who are preparing sandwiches, salads, and hummus,” Vickers explained. “It’s great being able to keep 10 more people employed who would normally be laid off. And that’s the model — how do we keep as many people employed as we can?”
Unfortunately, there still have been job losses at Diversity, but Vickers said they are doing their best to help everyone who’s been laid off, including sending them home with fresh produce and paying for their benefits during the layoff period.
As Vickers looks to the future, he said Diversity will continue to keep home delivery when things return to normal. To order, visit Diversity Food Services online ordering or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We plan to continue to offer this home delivery platform going forward, after life gets back to normal and COVID-19 is just a memory.”
Diversity Food Services’ campus locations were recently awarded with the ‘Greenest Restaurant Over 10K Square Feet’ by LEAF Canada. Diversity was also named the ‘Champion in Sustainability’ in the annual Manitoba Excellence in Sustainability Awards and helped UWinnipeg earn the top ranking among 336 post-secondary schools in North America for sustainable food and dining, as determined by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.