When Michelle Ng decided to “pause” operations of her Vancouver Foodie Tours business on March 13 due to COVID-19 concerns, she was forced to lay off her entire team.
“The fact that I’ve had to lay off my staff, some temporarily and some permanently, keeps me up most nights,” she says. “There’s immense concern around their ability to sustain themselves, and the feeling that you’ve let them down as an employer, even though this is not a situation anyone could have foreseen, but still I feel the responsibility on my shoulders.”
So, she wondered what to do next.
“I started thinking over the weekend, how we can continue to do what we do best — to share amazing stories behind the market and restaurant partners we work with?,” she recalls.
Knowing the call for physical distancing would and should continue, she didn’t foresee the return of her guided tours of Vancouver culinary destinations for some time. But, eager to find a way to uplift and “find light in the situation,” for herself and others, Ng pondered ways to continue to share her love of local food producers with area foodies.
“I came up with the idea to bring the Granville Island Public Market directly to homes around Greater Vancouver, by partnering with my mentor, Robert Safrata, owner of Novex, to deliver (food) through safe, contactless delivery,” Ng says.
The service offers “curated Foodie Packs” from a handful of the partners that are included in the Granville Island Market Foodie Tour, offering a variety of bits-and-bites, including a Starter Pack ($49), Sharing Pack for two ($99) and a Family pack ($249). Shoppers can also build their own bundles.
Current product offerings include Oyama Truffle Salami, Benton Brothers 5 Year Old Cheddar from Village Cheese Co., A Bread Affair Skinny Dipper Focaccia, Fraser Valley Gourmet Almond Butter Crunch Milk chocolate and Granville Island Tea Company teas. The online store also features food facts and stories behind the producers, similar to the info that Ng and her team would typically share on one of their foodie tours.
If the idea takes off, Ng hopes to expand the vendor offering to include more local market finds. She also hopes an increase would allow for her to hire back some of her team.
“Contactless” delivery is offered for a flat $10 fee in Vancouver; $15 to Burnaby and Richmond, $20 for Coquitlam, New Westminster, North Vancouver and West Vancouver; $20 for Tsawwassen and Ladner; $30 for Cloverdale and Surrey; and $35 for Langley.
Launching just 10 days after coming up with the idea, Ng admits the experience was a bit like “starting a brand new business from scratch.”
“It really reminded me of how it was starting Vancouver Foodie Tours 10 years ago in 2010,” she says. “We’ve basically jumped into the fresh-grocery delivery business model overnight, from our original business of hosting food walking tours.”
While a few logistical hurdles still remain for the startup as Ng gets everything going — she says finding fridge and freezer space on Granville Island large enough to accommodate their fresh product selection and packaging has been tricky — she’s confident the outcome will be worth it in the end.
“It’s important for me to do this because I believe in finding the light to every situation, and I hope Vancouverites will stay positive and focus on the good that can come out of this very difficult situation,” Ng says. “For me, Granville Island Foodie Delivery offers a beacon of hope for me, my team, and the Granville Island merchants.”