After watching Trudeau’s press conference on Monday, the Collective Hospitality team (which runs the Mackenzie Room and Say Mercy) looked at the numbers, community safety and more—and decided it was time to close their restaurants.

But they weren’t ready to stop serving the community. “The question came up internally: would we offer staff meal for the staff?" says director and founder of Collective Hospitality, Andrew Jameson. "It was a natural yes—we wanted everyone to have a place to gather and have access to food, being out of work and that squeeze can be significant. We extrapolated the idea that it would be something we would offer for industry, something for the neighbourhood—and then thought we’d just run with it as a general offering for anyone in the city. It’s simple, affordable, and you can take a milk crate home and throw in your freezer and feed your family.” 

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Credit: Katie Cross Photography

From left, the Collective Hospitality team: Director of Hospitality Andrew Jameson, Executive Chef Sean Reeve and Director of Operations Antonio Cayonne.

The team will start selling to-go Staff Meals designed to fit in 500 ml containers, and will include items such as the vegetable stew that’s a staple of the restaurant’s own staff meals, along with Say Mercy favourite barbecue Bolognese, and personal vegetarian and meat lasagnas. Each dish will range from $5 to $10, with an addition $2 per order, designated as a donation for the food bank. “What we know, so many people depend on the Food Bank,” says Antonio Cayonne, operations manager and partner of Collective Hospitality. “We wanted to make sure, we were giving back to our industry, in both the low cost, and also making a donation to the Food Bank.” 

The team has also started to reach out to other restaurants in the city to encourage them to offer the same type of meal. “If people are able to come to Fraser and 27th great, but that’s not always accessible,” says Cayonne. “But we don’t want to encourage people to take transit here—social distancing does matter. It’s why we’ve closed the restaurants. If we can think of each other as distribution centres—it becomes a safe place to go, you go to your closest restaurant to pick up your staff meal.”

The menu and all details should be up on the Say Mercy website by tomorrow, March 18. Jameson notes that the program is just an extension of why they’re in the business. “Closing the restaurant doesn’t mean we wanted to close our passions around cooking, bringing food, and making sure people are being taken care of.”