With patio season winding down, Restaurants Canada wants the federal government’s upcoming Speech from the Throne to signal plans to continue supporting the country’s vital food service sector. With an estimated 10 per cent of food service establishments permanently closed due to the impacts of COVID-19, the not-for-profit association is calling for a renewed commitment to help the industry avoid further closures and job losses as colder weather approaches.
In a letter to the Prime Minister’s office, Restaurants Canada President and CEO Todd Barclay said: “The recovery of the food service 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 downtown 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 according to the media statement from Restaurants Canada:
- 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 2008-2009 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.
- 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.
Restaurants Canada is recommending the government 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.
Restaurant Canada says, a thriving food service sector is critical to the country’s recovery from COVID-19. Restaurants and other food service businesses are the fourth-largest source of private sector jobs and number 1 source of first jobs for Canadians, typically employing 1.2 million people. The food service industry also supports a wide variety of supply chain businesses as well as plays a critical role for Canadian farmers and the agri-food sector.