For burger lovers, a trip to Muskoka is synonymous with a stop at Webers – even in the middle of a global pandemic.
If you’re heading up to Ontario’s cottage country this weekend, rest assured that the beloved Highway 11 burger joint is open for business. Their infamous lineup may just look a little more daunting than usual due to social distancing measures.
For those in the dark, the old-school burger joint has been serving up charcoal-grilled burgers, hot dogs, shakes, and poutine since 1963 to a loyal cottage-bound clientele. For many Torontonians, Webers conjures up nostalgic memories of summers past (we can almost smell the charcoal), when a stop at the restaurant was a family vacation tradition.
Of course, long lineups have always been part of the experience of a Webers visit; the volume is so high that they famously installed a bridge across the highway in 1987 to safely accommodate hungry homebound cottagers. But in COVID-19 times the lineups are even longer – at least, optically.
“We’ve been open daily since May 3, with strict social distancing measures in place,” said Webers manager Brian Clarke. “One of the biggest changes that customers will notice is a very long lineup. Even when they’re not long volume-wise, they look long because of social distancing.” Thankfully, complying with social distancing measures is easy for Webers, thanks to the size of its vast property.
COVID-19-inspired safety measures also include heightened cleaning practices and hand sanitizer for guests. After being a cash-only establishment since its birth, the pandemic has inspired the restaurant to (finally) accept debit payments. “That’s pretty much the biggest change in the history of Webers,” says Clarke.
Now that Ontario has entered the second stage of the province’s reopening plan, guests are welcome to eat their meal at one of the many picnic tables on the property.
In better times, guests are invited to enjoy their meal in a converted train car, which is the star of the show (aside from the burgers, of course). Clarke says the train will likely remain closed for the summer.
Despite the pandemic, business is booming at Webers. “The travel patterns have definitely changed,” said Clarke. “Our June nights were busier than they traditionally are. This shows that people don’t have to be anywhere; they can travel more freely.”