At the outset of the pandemic, when we were all cooped up indoors and still Lysolling our groceries, business was booming for the resort’s only locally-owned restaurant delivery service, Whistler Dine In.
While staying busy is good for the bottom line, the same can’t be said for that ever-elusive work-life balance everyone’s always talking about.
“When COVID first happened, me and my wife, we worked for 270 days straight without a day off,” said Jean-Francois Giasson, founder and owner of Whistler Dine In. “Then we got one day off and went straight back to work.”
The burnout they’ve experienced of late is part of the reason why Giasson and his wife announced on Oct. 9 they would close the business that has brought the best eats to Whistlerites’ and visitors’ doors for the past 12 years. That and an exacerbated staff shortage that meant the local restaurants they partnered with didn’t have the capacity to handle the volume of takeout orders coming in—which in turn hit Giasson and his drivers in the pocketbook.
“On the busy nights when we usually make our money, the weekends and holidays and all that, all of a sudden [partner restaurants] were too busy, so they turn us off and then we lose six of our best restaurants,” Giasson explained.
Like their shiny new local competitor, DoorDash, Whistler Dine In always offered participating restaurants the opportunity to turn off third-party deliveries, something Giasson said became more and more frequent over the past year as diners have been keen to eat out after two-plus years of takeout and delivery.
“The staff shortage is affecting [restaurants] so much that they do what they can, and they’re happy to offer takeout when they can, but when they’re fully booked and short-staffed, they have to put a stop and usually they put a stop to us,” he noted. “Now it’s become pretty much every weekend.”
Add to that dearth of orders the rising cost of gas, which the drivers cover themselves, as well as more frequent and longer traffic jams, and it has become difficult for Whistler Dine In to retain staff themselves. The company even lowered its delivery fee in an effort to stay competitive with other, larger delivery platforms, another hit to drivers’ wallets.
“The fee had to remain low or we were just not going to compete, so we did what we could to compensate our drivers as good as possible, but the money just wasn’t there,” Giasson added.
Since announcing the closure on Oct. 9, Giasson said many people have asked him if DoorDash was the ultimate death knell to his company, but while the rise of online delivery platforms is a factor, Giasson was quick to say it was far from the biggest contributor.
“That’s not even the main issue. The issue is basically the staff shortage, and if the partners would be able to fulfil all of the orders all of the time, we wouldn’t have any problem,” he explained. “That’s kind of what made our decision, because we were not seeing that getting any better—not next winter, that’s for sure.”
Giasson believes a locally owned delivery service could still be viable here, especially if the company can make use of the kind of smartphone technology that has made third- party delivery apps such as DoorDash, Uber Eats and Skip the Dishes so easy to use.
“I think there could still be room for a local business. Things would probably have to be different, with a new platform and someone that still has the drive ... People are now used to tracking their order online and all that. That would have to make us put a lot of money to update all of that, which we’re not willing to do at this point,” Giasson said, adding that, between the Whistler Dine In brand and website, the company still has inherent value for a prospective buyer.
After a dozen years of bringing the best eats to Whistlerites’ doors, Giasson said it’s the dedicated partner restaurants and loyal customers who have ordered week in and week out for years that he will miss the most.
“The people we have met, working with all these different partners, we’ve become friends with a lot of them, so we’re definitely going to miss that. We have customers that have been ordering from us multiple times a week every week for years and years and years. We’re sad for them that they’re going to have to find another way,” he added.
Anyone interested in taking on the Whistler Dine In brand can contact Giasson at email@example.com.