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COVID-19 Updates News Business and Operations
Restaurant Outlook Survey looks at pandemic challenges and restaurants’ future plans


Restaurant Canada’s 2021 Restaurant Outlook Survey offers insights into challenges faced by the restaurant industry over the past year, including impact on sales, how restaurants changed and what their plans are for the future.

“When we first reported the impact of COVID-19 in the Q1 2020 Restaurant Outlook Survey, there was a tremendous amount of anxiety, uncertainty and fear about the future of Canada’s foodservice industry,” wrote the organization, which represents food-service businesses in Canada. “For many, those fears were realized as more than 10,000 foodservice establishments have permanently closed over the past 12 months. Even for those still operating, many have seen a dramatic decline in sales and profitability.”

How food-service businesses changed during COVID-19

The most popular changes made during COVID-19 were to amend their hours of operation, offer takeout and delivery, and streamline their menu. Just over half of respondents said they were using social media more to reach out to their guests. For many, social media was the best way to notify guests that they were open, share new hours of operation, promote their menu and encourage guests to order by takeout/delivery if the on-premise portion of their business was closed. They also shared recipes and cooking tips, and highlighted the health and safety measures they put in place to keep guests and staff safe. Six in 10 table-service restaurants offered takeout and delivery of alcohol for the first time and more than one-third expanded their existing outdoor dining area.

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Half of restaurant operators reported they looked for ways to reduce operating expenses. Nearly half said they implemented online ordering from their restaurant website or app and 37 per cent added new technology such as a QR code-accessible menu. As was discussed at length in the Q4 2020 Restaurant Outlook Survey, 18 per cent of respondents said they began selling meal kits and 13 per cent sold groceries.

A look to the future as the pandemic subsides

While there is no firm timeline for the end of the pandemic, when Restaurants Canada asked operators to look ahead into the future, nearly seven in 10 respondents said that paying down the debt they accumulated during the pandemic will be the number 1 priority for their food-service business. More than six in 10 respondents expect that reducing operating costs and bringing back/finding new staff will be the biggest challenge for their business.

Labour remains one of the biggest differences between segments. After being forced to lay off employees, 63 per cent of table-service restaurants will make bringing back/finding staff a top priority compared to 49 per cent of quick-service restaurants.

Read the full report at restaurantscanada.org.