Tech company opens terrace platform for island’s restaurant industry

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A Victoria tech company has extended a vital lifeline to the region’s besieged restaurant industry.

A Victoria tech company has extended a vital lifeline to the region’s besieged restaurant industry.

Blackfish Networks and Host 250 have created a new online platform for restaurants and pubs on Vancouver Island to promote their terraces.

Last week, the province ordered restaurants to close all indoor seating and only serve in outdoor spaces until at least April 19, as COVID-19 cases increase in British Columbia.

Just over 100 restaurants from Victoria to Ladysmith have been listed on VictoriaPatios.ca by Monday and more have been added by the minute, said Bill Speta, CEO of Blackfish Networks.

“We launched this in 48 hours… normally it would be a six week project,” Speta said.

Website construction and data entry are all done free of charge by Host 250 partners Speta and web designer Gabriel McCay, along with a legion of volunteers. Victoria’s hospitality consultant Morgan Blake pitched the idea to Blackfish.

Restaurants can list descriptions of their food, links and contact information, the number of seating on the terrace, take-out options, and a photo.

“The response is overwhelming,” Speta said. “Restaurants have been through so much during COVID and many are fighting just to survive. “

He said that Blackfish Networks does about 80% of its business in the hospitality industry, “and this is our way of reaching them when they need it.”

For Dave Kindrat, owner of downtown Fiamo Italian Kitchen and co-owner of Fifth Street Bar & Grill on Hillside Avenue, the online patio platform is already attracting customers.

“It’s a great idea, really, and it helps us at a really tough time in the industry,” Kindrat said on Monday.

Kindrat rushed to pitch a large tent in his parking lot at Fifth Street Bar & Grill on Thursday. With patio seating along the side of the building, it more than doubled its outdoor seating to 76.

The clear but cool Easter weekend weather drew in many diners, leaving Kindrat encouraged.

“I am grateful to the city, to the liquor board and to [VictoriaPatio.ca] for all the help they give us, ”he said. “It’s great to always be in business, regardless of the reduced capacity.

“I have family in Ontario and the province is completely locked down again. In British Columbia, we cannot do this. I think as long as we can operate safely, we can overcome that. “

Speta said the website will continue to be upgraded with new features, such as pet-friendly options, and potentially serve the tourism industry as well when travel resumes.

dkloster@timescolonist.com


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