Business and Operations
Government’s throne speech must signal support for food-service operators: Restaurants Canada
By Colleen Cross
Toronto – With patio season winding down, Restaurants Canada is calling for the federal government’s upcoming throne speech to signal plans to continue supporting Canada’s food-service sector. Among other measures, the association is calling for a program similar to the “Eat Out to Help Out” program in the U.K. designed to boost revenue for struggling restaurants.
In a letter to the Prime Minister’s office, Restaurants Canada’s president and CEO, Todd Barclay, commends the federal government for stepping up to provide significant support to restaurants struggling to survive the impacts of COVID-19 over the past six months.
Looking ahead, Barclay calls for further assistance to ensure business continuity so that restaurants can continue contributing to economic growth: “The recovery of the foodservice industry will not be linear. Despite best efforts to innovate and adapt to the current environment, our sector will experience ups and downs as patios close, consumer behaviour adjusts and areas such as downtowns no longer host office workers and tourists in the same volumes they once did.”
Canada’s restaurant sector continues to be hardest hit by COVID-19
Restaurants have played a critical role in providing their communities with safe and reliable meal options throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, the restaurant industry was one of the first sectors impacted by the crisis, and continues to be the hardest hit:
- One out of every five jobs lost in the wake of the pandemic was in food service. The restaurant industry lost more jobs during the first six weeks of lockdown than the entire Canadian economy during the 2008-09 recession.
- Employment in the food-service sector remains 260,000 jobs short of where it was in February, according to the latest Labour Force Survey results from Statistics Canada. No other industry comes close to this level of shortfall.
- Total food-service sales in Canada could drop by nearly half in 2020, representing $44.8 billion in lost sales compared to 2019.
- Roughly 10 per cent of food-service businesses have already permanently closed due to the impacts of COVID-19 and most are still losing money. More than half of respondents to a survey that Restaurants Canada conducted during the summer said they are continuing to operate at a loss and expect to take at least a year to return to profitability.
Calling for a renewed commitment to food service
Restaurants Canada is recommending the upcoming throne speech signal clear intentions to support the foodservice industry in the following ways:
- Extend and adapt the main emergency COVID-19 federal business support programs, including the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance Program and the Canada Emergency Business Account.
- Direct stimulus spending toward the restaurant industry, with a program similar to the “Eat Out to Help Out” program in the U.K., to boost critically needed revenue to struggling restaurants and the sectors of the economy that depend on their survival.
- Ensure any new measures under consideration take into account the challenging realities of operating a business during the ongoing pandemic and continue to create conditions that support Canadians returning to work.