McPhillips eatery ‘just did not make a comeback’

RnR Family Restaurant shuts down for good after myriad struggles


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Too few people chose to rest and relax at RnR Family Restaurant on McPhillips Street.

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Too few people chose to rest and relax at RnR Family Restaurant on McPhillips Street.

The former Perkins shuttered Thursday.

“There’s no use staying open if you’re losing money,” said Roger Perron, a partner with the eatery.

The RnR Family Restaurant on McPhillips Street closed its doors for good on Thursday. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press files)

Like all restaurants, RnR was rattled by pandemic-era lockdowns — the nosedive in revenue, the cutting of staff, and the trying to restart and recruit employees.

“Our McPhillips location just did not make a comeback,” Perron said.

Customers didn’t return in the volumes they used to, he said. Ever-rising food prices, labour shortages and debt accumulating over the last couple of years contributed to the decision.

“We’ve lost money since March (of 2022). We don’t want to incur more debt. You’ve got to cut bait,” Perron stated.

The average Manitoba restaurant had roughly $250,000 of pandemic debt last August, a Manitoba Restaurant and Foodservices Association survey found.

Those debts will take an average of 10 years to pay off, according to Shaun Jeffrey, the association’s CEO.

Operating post-lockdown, during a period of high inflation and labour shortages, has been RnR’s attempt to give it a fair shot, Perron said.

The company underwent a rebrand in September of 2020 — the pandemic’s first year — when it cut ties with Perkins.

“It was a positive move for us, I think,” Perron noted Friday.

The change came after a local partner had shut down several Winnipeg Perkins, and the international chain filed for bankruptcy in 2019 (its second time in less than a decade).

Since transitioning, RnR has brought in local products such as Negash Coffee and Manitoba walleye.

The two other RnRs — on Regent and Portage avenues — have seen a return to pre-pandemic foot traffic, Perron noted.

Those locations will stay open and some of the roughly 25 McPhillips staff have transferred to the sites.

“The provincial government should’ve had more support programs. The hospitality industry was hit between the eyes for two and a half years, and it’s still suffering,” Perron said.

Wayne Martin is thankful he has a lunch crowd.

The two other RnRs on Regent and Portage avenues will remain open, says Roger Perron, a partner in the eatery, pictured above at the Portage Avenue location in 2020. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press files)

“Every day it’s like, ‘Are we going to stay open another day?’” the owner of Capital Grill and Bar said.

The restaurant has not returned to a pre-pandemic state. Staff shortages mean fewer open hours at the Roblin Boulevard location and less catering output. A lack of people downtown has caused dinner at the Broadway hub to be hit and miss, Martin said.

“The high cost of food and goods now is ridiculous. I can only increase my prices to a certain level before people stop coming,” he said.

The hospitality industry is in dire need of help, and there’s no single solution, Martin said.

“Do we do a giant job drive, give incentives to have lower rent, lower food costs? It’s a hard one to say,” he said.

The province created a minimum wage subsidy to assist businesses in paying minimum wage workers; the hourly wage increased from $11.95 to $13.50 in October.

However, just $20,400 of the $6 million budgeted for the program — 0.3 per cent — had been used by Jan. 13, as reported by the CBC on Wednesday.

The program began in October and will end in March. As of Jan. 9, 245 businesses had applied, and 108 had been paid.

“It’s not worth the paperwork,” noted RnR’s Perron.

The subsidy provides up to 50 cents an hour per worker, up to 20 workers, for companies that have 100 staff or less.

The time spent submitting documents was not worth the money, Perron said.

“We’re still looking for long-term support and investment in our industry,” said the MRFA’s Jeffrey.

He called RnR’s closure indicative of a lack of support from the government while the hospitality industry attempts to recover from the pandemic.

“We need to have a collaborative approach to creating assistance programs that are going to be helpful,” Jeffrey said, adding the MRFA wasn’t consulted on the minimum wage subsidy program.

Wholesale liquor pricing and longer-term grant programs are among the solutions Jeffrey suggested.

Staff from the McPhillips location have been transferred to the other two RnR locations. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press files)

A provincial spokesperson pointed to a number of business assistance programs from the government, including Retrain Manitoba, a $12.5-million workforce skills development grant program, and the Manitoba Sector Council Program, which includes funding for hospitality groups.

Mandy Bergeron was shocked to learn of RnR’s shuttering. She managed the eatery when it was a Perkins.

“It was like a family. Especially on days where we would have promotions running, there would be a line-up outside the doors,” she said.

Weekends meant waiting lists, she added.

“The fact that they’re closing, it really does say something about the times that we’re in.”

Regulars brought Bergeron flowers when her dog died and baby presents when she was pregnant with her son, she said.

“I’m doing my best to support the community,” said Jhocelin Gilbert, a former customer of the RnR on McPhillips.

However, it’s tough with the increased cost of living, she said.

“I have to cut everything so I can buy my groceries. We have to start cutting going to restaurants,” she said.

Some eateries are entertaining plenty of customers, but the dollars don’t go as far with the higher operational costs, Jeffrey noted.

Gabrielle Piché

Gabrielle Piché

Gabby is a big fan of people, writing and learning. She graduated from Red River College’s Creative Communications program in the spring of 2020.

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