How Takeout is Keeping the Lights on at Sabor

March 26, 2020
Category: Blog Posts

How Takeout is Keeping the Lights on at Sabor

Last Thursday night, Christian Mena was busy finalizing plans to close down Sabor restaurant in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of his 40 staff members had already been laid off and a skeleton crew of four were still working to serve customers wishing to dine-in.

Hour by hour, people cancelled their reservations. It was clear to Sabor that Saturday would likely be the restaurant’s last service for awhile. The only good news was that a small wedding was on the books for Saturday night.

Then Christian got the one call he was hoping wouldn’t come in. The reservation was cancelled. The bride had taken ill (not with COVID-19) and the invited guests weren’t coming either.

After mulling over various scenarios with his business partner, chef Lino Oliveira, the pair realized that they might be able to offer takeout. Perhaps they’d sell a few meals before Saturday’s last service, make a few hundred dollars and get rid of some of the restaurant’s seafood and produce. It was small hope for Mena and Oliveira who had opened the Downtown restaurant 10 years ago.

By the end of the evening, they had posted a note on Facebook and Instagram announcing that Sabor would be offering a mixed paella dish for two and a bottle of wine for $60 all weekend long. (AGLC had recently relaxed liquor laws allowing restaurants and bars to sell liquor as part of their take-out and delivery services.)

Mena was astonished when over 40 orders were phoned in for pick up. “That was unexpected,” he admits, “and it did so well that we decided to expand the Sabor-to-Go menu to include more of our signature items, like lobster risotto and piri piri chicken.”

Based on the success of Sabor-to-Go and to keep up with customer demand, the pair quickly reopened their 124 Street restaurant, Bodega, for pick-up orders, and started rolling out takeout at their St. Albert restaurant too.

Dealing with emergencies is a regular part of any restaurateur’s life, but these are new waters for Mena and Oliveira. For support, they keep in regular contact with friends and fellow Downtown and Oliver business owners at The Marc, The Church of John and Blue Plate Diner.

“We have discussions, but the thing is that there’s nobody out there who has navigated this kind of situation before,” says Mena. “We’re all getting through this together.”

 To order takeout from Sabor, phone 780 - 757-114; for Bodega 124, phone 780-250-6066, for Bodega St Albert, phone 587-290-1119 or order from Uber Eats (St. Albert only). Please note that menus will change weekly. 

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