VICTORIA -- In the midst of a pandemic, the lunch rush at Spinnakers Brew Pub in Victoria is a little quieter these days.

“We’re facing a great unknown,” says Kala Hadfield, of Spinnakers. “Especially with what’s happening back east, sort of that fear of being shut down again is obviously there in the background.”

Since the pandemic hit, restaurants have had to conform to mandatory health orders to stay open.

“With our reduced capacity of about 50 per cent of the seating that we lost, our sales are sort of down 40 per cent,” says Hadfield.

To make up for that loss, Spinnakers and a few other downtown restaurants are working with two longtime veterans of the industry to launch a new business.

“We want a space to showcase all the fantastic offerings that Vancouver Island has,” says Jami Wood, co-owner of Niche Grocerant. “So that would be with our restaurant partners who are producing retail items or to-go items.”

Those restaurant items will be sold alongside other island foods products as well as local fresh food, in what’s called a “grocerant,” a portmanteau of grocery and restaurant. It’s an idea that’s catching on elsewhere.

“It’s being done in other places in the world, Europe, especially,” says Ceri Barlow, Niche Grocerant’s other co-owner. “Whole Foods all over the states is doing much larger versions.”

How does this help a local restaurant?

“Just having the increased revenue stream and the availability to produce more stuff out of the kitchen, we’ll be able to keep more staff on,” says Hadfield.

Niche Grocerant plans to open as early as February in Saanich’s Broadmead Village.

“We live out there and we felt there was a need,” says Wood.

By selling favourites from downtown restaurants and creating their own menu using local goods, Niche’s owners hope to have something for everyone, while helping the local food scene stay afloat.