Restaurants Canada is calling for a renewed commitment of support from the federal government in its upcoming Speech from the Throne.
Noting that an estimated 10% of foodservice establishments have already permanently closed due to the impacts of COVID-19, the industry association is looking for continued support in order to help the foodservice 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 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, he 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 foodservice 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 foodservice. 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 foodservice 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 foodservice 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 foodservice 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.
David Lefebvre, Restaurants Canada Vice President, Federal and Quebec, said that: “Largely thanks to measures introduced since the start of the pandemic, the vast majority of restaurants have been able to continue contributing to their communities during these extraordinarily challenging times.”
Lefebvre continued: “As the federal government resets its agenda and seeks to demonstrate a strong commitment to economic recovery, Restaurants Canada looks forward to renewed support for the vitally important foodserivce sector to prevent further closures and job losses.”
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.