Restaurants having been among those businesses hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic, there have been a number of initiatives to promote local dining. The latest of those is a provincial effort, the Great Taste of Ontario, that sees 15 restaurants in the region taking part.
The program is the work of the Culinary Tourism Alliance, which encourages people to get out and explore local food options. While the passport system is province-wide, the pandemic means the focus is hyper-local just now, as people are less likely to be travelling far from home.
The Culinary Tourism Alliance has been working with all kinds of food-related businesses and local tourism boards to promote food and drink establishments in a way that gets people out while adhering to public health measures.
Local tourism organization Explore Waterloo Region is taking part in the promotion, with CEO Minto Schneider saying she is excited to see the program and its focus on bringing residents into the many participating restaurants.
“What we are doing is focusing on trying to encourage people to get out and enjoy that culinary bounty that is in Waterloo Region. Eventually, of course, we are hoping to encourage people from outside the region to come to Waterloo Region to enjoy it as well, but we have to start hyper locally because the travel restrictions are concerning right now with the COVID numbers going up. So, initially maybe it’s a good thing at testing it out on a local market,” said Schneider.
Running until December 2021, the program will allow people to pick where they want to travel and download the corresponding passport for that area. Each passport will give people access to exclusive offers at participating restaurants. Checking in to restaurants on the passport will also give points that can be redeemed for prizes or use them to donate to organizations such as Second Harvest or FoodShare.
Schneider says they hope to incentivize people to go to these restaurants – especially over the winter months – as they will need a lot of support as the pandemic situation continues.
“I think the most important thing is to support local. We’ve got fantastic restaurant and food service businesses in our region and in [Woolwich] Township. And if we want them to continue to operate, we need to make sure that we’re supporting them, especially when we don’t have people from outside the region feeling free to travel. We’re heading into winter months when restaurants are going to need a lot of support, so we’re going to do whatever we can to try and encourage people to get out and either have delivery or takeout or eat in the restaurant through the winter,” added Schneider.
In addition to this program, Schneider says Explore Waterloo Region is also planning on launching its own passport-related event which will put a focus on attractions as well as restaurants to encourage people to do more in Waterloo Region than just grabbing a meal. Details of that program are still being worked out.
Click here to download the Great Taste of Ontario passport for Waterloo Region – or another area in the province