A popular sausage-making business in Windsor is preparing for its last day of operations — and a food service advocacy group says it will soon be one of nearly 5,000 businesses of its kind across Canada to close in the past year.
The owner of Robbie’s Gourmet Sausage Co. says recent inflation and rising gas prices have resulted in customers not showing up to his store as they did in previous years.
“Customers have started changing their consumer habits because things cost more — gas, rent and utilities. Unfortunately, that’s led customers to big box stores that larger and stronger purchasing power than us little guys. We can no longer compete,” said Robbie Bornais, one day after announcing the closure on social media.
Bornais said his existing business model, in which customers purchase frozen packs of handmade sausages, has been successful for nearly a decade but no longer works in “the current state of the economy.”
Robbie’s Sausage Co. started as a pop-up operation in 2013 before moving to a brick-and-mortar store in Windsor’s Walkerville region two years later.
According to Bornias, customer feedback and online reviews are at an all-time high. However, that hasn’t translated into booming business in recent months.
“Compared to two years ago, we are down almost 1,000 visits to our shop. When you translate that to an average of 44 dollars that our customers spend here, that’s my entire salary. I have not been able to take a paycheque in the last year,” he said.
Across the country, nearly 5,000 restaurants have closed since this time last year, according to advocacy group Restaurants Canada which adds nearly half of food service operators are “currently operating at a loss or just breaking even,” said Kelly Higginson, COO for Restaurants Canada .
“Even with busy patios and a lot of people seeing restaurants full with lots of action, it just does not translate to a profitable business model for many operators at this time.”
The food service industry has been unable to rebound due to a seemingly never-ending series of obstacles which started in 2020, whether it be lockdown restrictions, labor shotages or, most recently, inflation, Higginson said.
The group recommends steps which food service operators can take to try and mitigate operational challenges, such as ensuring inventory controls are in place, trimming down menus so products can be rotated (which will also reduce food waste) and having conversations with suppliers so everyone can plan ahead
“I also think we are need to see some controls at the government level. We need to ease some of the pain points with the supply shortages, better access to labor and inflation control,” said Higginson.
“But we’re also dependent on our guests having money in their pocket to come and spend in food service. These are things the government really has to keep in mind in order for all of our local businesses to keep flourishing.”
After 9 years, Robbie’s Gourmet Sausage Co. is closing at the end of 2022. Owner Rob Bornais says inflation and “changing consumer habits” have hampered his business.
Rob’s sausage-making journey started at 28 years old. At the time, he didn’t even like sausages. @CTVWindsor pic.twitter.com/4xMxgSLfFn
— Sanjay Maru (@sanJmaru) December 8, 2022
As for Bornais, he said the past nine years have been “probably the best of his life,” thanks to the customers and industry partners he has met along the way.
“I consider myself one of the luckiest people in the world to have been able to live my dreams,” said Bornais.
When asked what’s next for him, Bornais said he will continue appearing at pop-up events and teach classes about the art of making a sausage.
“Even though [customers] didn’t show as often as I would have liked them to this year, I believe they’ll be there for me in the future,” he added.
The announcement of Robbie’s closure comes just two days after nearby Bad Witch Bakery also announced it would be ceasing operations. Both businesses will be open until Dec. 31, 2022.
On Thursday, Windsor-based food delivery service Jubzi announced it would be shutting down.