TORONTO -- An Ajax, Ont. man says he was tired of seeing restaurants paying high commission to food delivery service companies as patios and dining rooms sat empty during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In response, Eric Novak said he created a Facebook group called Durham Region Restaurants, which showcases businesses offers pick-up and self-delivery services.

Novak said that 170 restaurants joined the group within weeks. He said they post their menus and specials and when customers order food this way, more of the money goes to the restaurant and not a delivery service.

“By sharing this information, we are going to work around those 20 per cent to 30 per cent losses restaurants have to pay in commissions because they need every dollar they can get," Novak said.

John Allen, the owner of 12welve Bistro and Tapwerks in Whitby, said his restaurant didn’t offer delivery before the pandemic, but now has to as dining-in is not an option.

“There is no way I’m paying a food delivery service a 30 per cent commission to deliver our food,” he said.

Allen said he will use some delivery apps as long as they have reasonable commissions, but the restaurant also created its own delivery service.

“It's amazing to see how many people are ordering take out and we are doing the social distancing, we are keeping ourselves apart and we are doing the delivery in a safe manner,” he said. 

Danielle Honsberger of Calvert Catering in Pickering, Ont., joined the Facebook group and said that “without them we would not be surviving at this time.”

Her catering business usually provides food for large events like weddings and banquets, but when the pandemic happened most were canceled.

They have switched their operations to create oven-ready family meals and with a minimum order of $50 dollars, they offer free delivery within a certain area.

“I wouldn't be able to afford to do it any other way and I’m grateful we have our own vehicles and staff to do our own food service," Honsberger said.

Novak said almost 4,000 people have visited the Facebook group to support local restaurants.

“Hopefully when this ends and restaurant open their dining rooms again they may have new customers that they didn't have before because of a community hub like this,” he said.

Novak said restaurants in any part of the country could set-up their own Facebook group. Along with promoting local businesses, it allows the restaurants to keep more of the profit for their food, he said.