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Hynes is the oldest restaurant in Moncton, NB. Established in 1939—and in its current location for over 63 years—Hynes is the kind of old fashioned spot where owners greet you at the door and servers know your name. Before the pandemic, it was a busy, bustling diner with line-ups out the door.

In business, change is inevitable. But the COVID-19 pandemic brought about a level of change that businesses couldn’t foresee or plan for. Our #SmallBusinessRedefined series showcases small businesses that have found ways to reimagine their business through new opportunities – whether it’s through a new product, a new market, or a new way to fulfill. Learn how these Canadian businesses have pivoted to adapt, innovate and thrive in a changing and uncertain environment.

Hynes Restaurant is an iconic Moncton establishment, now owned by the third generation of Hynes — Jamie and his wife Josette. They specialize in comfort food, all-day breakfast with a personal touch that makes the restaurant feel like home to both its regulars and newcomers.

“[Customers] like coming in here for the atmosphere. It’s not like you’re going to the Taj Mahal, but the place is oozing with history. It’s been here for decades. For generations, people have come here and they like coming into the building,” says Jamie Hynes. “We tried doing take-out in May for two weeks, but it was a disaster because people wanted to come in — they want the whole experience.”

So like many other restaurants across Canada, Hynes had to close its doors. Previously only closed for Christmas Day and Boxing Day, due to COVID-19, they shuttered for over two months.

A Careful Re-opening

When Jamie found out that other restaurants in Moncton were able to partially open, he jumped at the opportunity to bring his customers back. He met with Public Health, asking: “What will it take for Hynes to open up under the new rules?” On May 28th, the 122-seat restaurant opened with 38 available seats, given rules around distancing and capacity.

After further consultation — and a $10,000 investment into Plexiglas barriers, plastic seat coverings and other safety measures — Hynes was able to welcome 84 diners at a time. “We’re at 70 per cent capacity now,” says Jamie. “It’s not perfect, but it’s better than nothing.”

Adopting New Technology

Jamie Hynes is a man without a cell phone or social media account.

“I’m not really a techie kind of guy, but in the two months we were home, I learned how to pay bills and do other banking online. I had time to figure all of that out, and it continues to save me time,” he says.

He still issues cheques for payroll, however. “I’m set in my ways,” he admits. “This way works for me.”

Adapting to New Realities

Now eleven weeks into the new set-up, Hynes serves about 400 customers in a day — what would have been defined as “a bad day” before the pandemic.

“We used to average 500 people every day, and on weekends 600 to 800,” says Jamie. “Now our top day is 439 customers. But we’ve never been so glad to see those 400 people come through our doors.”

Jamie says that 400 has become the new 600. He says managing the business successfully comes down to being smart and efficient. “I know the numbers I need to make money,” he says, citing moves like transitioning to a five-day week, a shorter work day, and taking advantage of government subsidies.

He’s had to create new processes to keep customers and staff safe. While masks aren’t mandatory in New Brunswick right now, the staff wear masks and Jamie enforces hand sanitization when people enter his restaurant. People can no longer line up at the door — they now wait outside and Jamie or another host will let them know when their table is ready. He also records the name of every customer who comes in for the purposes of contact tracing.

And he makes sure his restaurant is clean and sanitized. “People see that we are sanitizing, and they know it’s safer here,” he says.

Jamie’s 4 Tips for Other Business Owners

Many restaurants continue to struggle, even as Canada enters new phases of re-opening. And Jamie Hynes knows many may not survive. For those who are looking to re-open, he offers these four tips:

1. Offer a consistent experience.

Jamie credits the long-standing success of Hynes to their commitment to consistency. “We’re successful because we give customers what they want and expect,” he says. While new safety measures may mean things look a little different, maintaining levels of service and quality are key to attracting your customers back.

2. Do the math.

With reduced capacity in restaurants, it will take some planning and creativity to earn revenues that can sustain your business. Jamie took into consideration the cost of safety protocols, his new seating capacity, staff wages and government support as he crunched the numbers to figure out what he needed to do to stay afloat.

3. Make people feel safe.

“There’s no such thing as being too clean,” advises Jamie. Canadians have different levels of comfort when it comes to returning to restaurants, and will begin to dine out again at their own pace. By implementing strict cleaning and sanitizing processes — and making these evident to your patrons — you can give them some peace of mind that it’s safe to dine with you.

4. Adapt to your new circumstances.

Whether it’s installing plastic shields, using plastic seating covers, taking names and numbers of your patrons or installing a pop-up patio, doing business in this new environment will require some changes. Being able to adapt will be key to moving forward.

Learn how other Canadian businesses pivoted to adapt, innovate and thrive in our current changing and uncertain times.