When the pandemic lockdown first hit last year, Ali Irfan Ali, franchisee of the Paramount Fine Foods restaurant in Milton, saw his business drop by about 90 per cent. The phone barely rang from customers for the first few weeks. “It was just not believable,” he said.

The restaurant is still feeling the pain a year into the disruption. But hard work and persistence are paying off, as the numbers have gone back up — and Paramount started by giving back to the community.