‘People here really support local’: The challenges restaurants face during the pandemic

SASKATOON —
For Saskatoon Chef Scott Dicks, keeping a positive attitude and taking things one day at a time has helped guide his restaurant through the COVID-19 pandemic. Dicks is the Head Chef and co-owner of Odla Restaurant and Market in Saskatoon’s Broadway neighbourhood.

“I definitely see myself as a leader here at the restaurant, and I just don’t want to work any other way,” he explained. “If we’re not working in a room full of positivity, I don’t want to be around that. It’s just not fun.”

Dicks remembers being full of optimism in the days before the pandemic arrived in Saskatoon. He says the restaurant, which opened in 2019, was finding its rhythm and he was excited at the prospects of a busy summer.

When COVID-19 became the new reality, it forced Dicks and his team to pivot quickly.

“The Tuesday after the Junos were to take place, we were supposed to create an online store,” explained Odla’s sommelier and co-owner, Lacey Sellinger. “Then Wednesday, we were back at it in a whole new way. Creating an online store certainly wasn’t on our to-do list and if only that was the only thing we’ve had to create since this all happened.”

Odla, like many local restaurants, has made numerous changes to meet the demands of customers throughout the pandemic. The restaurant developed its outdoor patio to bring in people during the summer and is now offering fine dining options for take-out so people can enjoy a restaurant experience in the comfort of their homes.

Dicks is overwhelmed at how the community has rallied to support local restaurants.

“People here really support local restaurants and really support their peers and their friends. If anything, the pandemic really put up a magnifying glass on the scene because people were talking about it more. Hopefully that stays in peoples’ lives where they’ll look for a local restaurant or market before they go to a big box store.”