Canadian Travel Press
Issue Date: Dec 21, 2020

Put this on the menu

National working group needed to support restaurant industry’s revival


A nationwide group that lobbies on behalf of this country›s restaurants is calling for the formation of a working group aimed at helping the restaurant industry recover from a coronavirus pandemic fallout that it warns is having a “catastrophic” impact on those it represents.

Restaurants Canada president Todd Barclay said recently that such a group could deal with a host of issues confronting this country›s restaurants, issues he warned have to be dealt with quickly if widespread restaurant closures are to be avoided.

“Our members are seeking a New Year’s resolution from the government, not only to support their survival but our industry’s vital role in building back a stronger, more resilient Canada,” Barclay said. “Restaurants Canada is calling for a national working group to pave the way for the food service sector’s revival, building on the commitment in the federal government’s 2020 Fall Economic Statement to provide targeted, sector-specific support to restaurants and other hardest hit businesses.”

The sought-after group would have both government and industry representation.

Restaurants Canada’s call comes during a coronavirus pandemic that Barclay labelled “catastrophic” for this country’s restaurants, with 10,000 having closed and many more closures looming. A recent Restaurants Canada survey revealed that eight out of 10 restaurants are either losing money or barely scraping by, while 65% are continuing to operate at a loss, and 19% are just breaking even. 63% of food service businesses that are losing money expect to take at least a year to return to profitability, and 48% of single-unit foodservice operators expect to permanently close their establishment within six months if conditions don’t improve. 56% of multi-unit operators said they expect to close at least one of their locations within the same time period.

“Our industry has been the hardest hit by this crisis,” stated Barclay, adding a fifth of the jobs lost during the pandemic have been in the restaurant industry.

Prior to the pandemic, the restaurant trade was a $93-billion industry serving 22 million customers a day and employing 1.2 million people.

Government-mandated restrictions on restaurant operation have become commonplace since the start of the pandemic but Barclay insisted that restaurants have worked diligently to keep those in them safe and they “are not a source of community spread” of coronavirus.

Barclay said restaurants that are not now allowed to seat people are still doing their part in helping the country move towards an economic recovery by offering the likes of delivery of food and takeout service.

According to the latest Labour Force Survey from Statistics Canada, the food service sector lost 72,000 jobs in October and November, after recovering 426,900 jobs from May to September. This leaves the industry more than 260,000 jobs short of where it was in February and amounts to “21% of the restaurant workforce not yet recovered. No other industry continues to face this level of shortfall.”

With food service businesses continuing to face “devastating restrictions,” Restaurants Canada is calling for the working group to lay the groundwork for the industry’s revival in 2021.

The national working group Restaurants Canada is seeking would focus on:

 Mechanisms for timely consultation on COVID-19 related aid measures, to ensure businesses impacted by significant restrictions are provided “sufficient, efficient and effective aid” throughout the ongoing economic and public health crisis.
 Joint communications materials and campaigns to both reassure Canadians that restaurants provide safe and reliable meal options; and promote takeout and delivery to show support for struggling entrepreneurs, restaurant staff and local food suppliers.
 Coordinated action on key issues of concern for food service businesses to develop and implement solutions over the short, medium and long term through “innovative, multi-stakeholder discussions to ensure restaurant operators are set up for success in the post-pandemic economic environment.”

Those supporting the formation of such a group can send a letter to their Member of Parliament at: