It was cold and rainy along the sidewalks of King Street, with little to no cars in sight. When the clock hit 12, the lunch rush started to pour in. Wheels, however, weren’t the main source of transportation.
Lunch goers walked across streets, over sidewalks, and out of subways and streetcars to their favourite restaurants in search for a quick meal. One particular cafe at the corner of King and Yonge was working extra hard to get the foodies what they ordered.
The scent of coffee and sandwiches filled the air and the talk of work, stress, and reports crowded the room. Cafe Plenty is one of the 40 restaurants that Torontonians can grab a free meal at through the Food is King collaboration by the city.
“Yeah, definitely it’s been slower since the pilot happened.” said Sasha, the manager at Cafe Plenty. “When it comes to our regulars, I think most of them take the TTC anyways. It’s just the walk-in people that we don’t get anymore.”
The King St. pilot project gives streetcars priority over personal vehicles between Bathurst and Jarvis. Local businesses complain that the project has led to a loss of customers and business.
Since the pilot project began there’s a lot less traffic and movement on King Street. In an attempt to create more hype around the city and get pedestrians walking and spending time on King, the City of Toronto and the food ordering app Ritual have collaborated to give a credit of $15 towards any one of the 40 restaurants along the street.
“At this point it’s kind of hard to tell if its because of the winter or if it’s because of the streetcar,” Sasha said. “I think once summer comes, if we do see a significant increase it will definitely help with the numbers.” she said.
The promotion is in fact rare as most food app credits have underlying claims such as “$10 off after spending at least $30” and more.
This promotion, however, can be used fully for a free meal of $15 without any gimmicks and has been paid for by the city. The credit is being granted to new Ritual customers as well as old ones.
The King Street pilot has caught a lot of attention online after local merchants played a game of hockey on the street to showcase the lack of cars. A recent report of the project however, suggests customer spending is in line with seasonal spending patterns over the past three years.
“I think the long term plan for King Street would be nice.” said Kyle Rist, a bartender at El Caballito, who supports the pilot project.
The report also shows that streetcar ridership has increased to 84,000 from 72,000 riders since the pilot began. Streetcar reliability has also gone up to 85% with a 4-5 minute improvement in travel times.
“I think its a great idea, it’s really congested, people who drive just kinda get over it.” He said. “They have to accept that you can move a lot more people from the city using public transit then they can with cars.”
El Caballito is another restaurant is one of the 40 restaurants participating in “Food is King” and Wednesday was the first day of the collaboration, which will last about a week.
“I would say today was busiest for Ritual, we had maybe 20-30 orders in two hours.” said Rist.
There may have been a lack of cars on the street, but footsteps seem to have increased.
The Food is King collaboration is valid until March 4 and available to anyone with the ability to download and order.