The idea for The Femme Stories was born last year, but with any small business some ideas just have to wait. When everything started happening surrounding the pandemic I was PROUD of my friends and colleagues for how they were tackling these unprecedented times and I wanted to document that, these are their stories.

May | Farinella

I have known May for 6 years, since the beginning of Copious. She has styled, helped to sell and even modelled for me. Besides being a supporter of my brand, she has an incredible eye for detail and an effortless style that people want to emulate, we always want her involved in our photoshoots. That is why I wasn’t surprised when she first told me she had taken on the role of GM for the restaurant Farinella. I knew why they wanted her; because of her ability to help create a brand, help tell that story to clients and her unparalleled work ethic.
Farinella Team, Ottawa Pizzeria and Gelato Restaurant
When things started to shut down and self-isolation became the norm, mentally where was the team at? 
We all went through some pretty crazy emotions, specifically the Sunday before the announcement came in, Nina and I definitely broke down. It was a beautiful day outside, but it was slow at the restaurant, you could really feel the fear of the unknown. We did shift quickly into plan mode and the team that decided to stay on with us was very calm and collected, Nina became that quickly and Cez is always that way, it was really me who couldn’t get there. I was full of anxiety those first couple of weeks, we went from having no information to having an abundance of it, we went from having no cases to it spreading and my anxiety was driven by my fear of it all and my desire to protect our staff and customers.
This situation did drive us to make quick and efficient decisions. We closed that Tuesday to regroup, but right away when we reopened Wednesday we did curbside pickup. Honestly, we already had very high standards for our staff and the cleanliness of the restaurant, but this kicked it into overdrive and my fear drove my vigilance. Because of the job we were doing, we were around more people. Even though we had a perimeter around the restaurant and had a system in place to never be in contact with customers or delivery people, I was fearful for myself, my employees and all our families. It is my job to keep everyone safe and I didn’t always go about that in the nicest way, which didn’t make me the easiest person to be around. I became someone my staff didn’t recognize because I was letting my fear and the irrationalness of it take over. It wasn’t till they came and talked with me that I looked at the situation and realized how unhealthy it was for myself and my team.
Do you feel like Farinella was able to transition quickly during these times because you were already geared towards take out? 
Yes, our whole idea for the restaurant is takeout, so we didn’t have a lot to change. This current situation does take away from being able to sample our different styles of pizza and getting individual slices, but it was necessary to switch to orders being for half or whole pizzas and have people call in their orders, to make sure everyone was safe. Right now, we are pumping out 8 pizzas every 15 mins, so that is something we are not used to, but are extremely grateful for the support. Pizza, gelato and ice cream are comfort foods, something you can eat every night of the week, unlike more fine dining restaurants we didn’t have to shut down to regroup or revamp our menu, we were already set up for this.
That sort of answers my next question, how has support been from the community?
It has been amazing, there is this one gentleman who orders a pizza every Sunday, it is his thing and we love that. Our regulars have been super supportive and we have gained a lot of new customers because they see their friends posting about the meter long pizzas and they want one, a lot of new people have discovered us as well. The support is amazing and we are grateful to feed people great food and bring some comfort to them during this time.
On social media you tackled this quickly, you were very transparent, did you find this helped the community trust you were doing your part so they could still enjoy pizza? 
Even before this we already had strict rules in place for how the staff handled food. For example, we always wore gloves while handling the pizza or scooping ice cream/gelato so customers saw that when picking up their order. Many of our customers told us before this, that they liked how we handled our food. When we shut down on the Tuesday, we asked our staff; what do we need to do to make ourselves feel safe and immediately we all agreed no customers in the shop. It helped us and our customers feel safe, which helped us continue to run our business.
You started doing delivery as well as pick up, how has that been? 
We did at the very beginning, but we quickly stopped doing it ourselves. It just became too challenging with how much pizza we were having to get out each hour and we did have a smaller staff. We already had Ubereats in place so we just continued on with that.
What new tools or apps have you been using to keep the business going?
None really, but we are actively looking for a way to help our customers place take-out orders online. That has been the biggest shift for us is dealing with customers calling their orders in. I pretty much always am talking to a person and have another on hold waiting to place their order, so the struggle is if people can’t get through they start messaging us through social media and obviously we can’t be taking orders that way. We are looking for a way to make it easier for everyone.
Lastly what is your hope for the future?
Like a lot of people, our year will look different. We won’t have as much money to make bigger purchases, but we will be ok. Our customers are supporting us and will continue to do that as we shift back. People miss going out, they miss seeing friends and catching up, so we look forward to being that place where they can do that again.
Everything Farinella does, they do well, whether it is Pizza, Gelato, Ice Cream, Coffee or Pastries, you can see the respect they have for the product they make. From the incredible ingredients to how they showcase the product, they love what they do and what they make, and you will love it to. If you haven’t tried this restaurant I highly recommend it, you will be supporting a local business and get the most incredible meal. Talking with May just further instilled how much they care about what they make.
If you want to try Farinella for dinner tonight, check out their website and call in your order and make sure to follow them on Instagram.
Written by Carissa McCaig

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