COVID-19 Causing Unprecedented Damage to the Canadian Restaurant Industry

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TORONTO — The COVID-19 pandemic has sent shockwaves across the planet, affecting every industry, none more than the foodservice industry.

Restaurants Canada released a survey recently detailing the number of jobs lost throughout Canada in direct relation to the novel coronavirus outbreak. The survey revealed approximately 800,000 jobs in the foodservice industry have been lost since March 1.

“Not only was our industry among the first to feel the impacts of COVID-19, we’ve been one of the hardest hit so far, with nearly two thirds of our workforce now lost,” says Shanna Munro, president & CEO, Restaurants Canada. “In our 75 years of existence as Canada’s national foodservice association, these are, by far, the worst numbers we’ve ever seen.”

The $93-billion foodservice industry represents four per cent of the Canadian GDP and Restaurants Canada estimates foodservice sales will be down nearly $20 billion for the second quarter of 2020.

“Restaurants have played an essential role during this crisis, but are also uniquely challenged by the impacts of COVID-19. We’re encouraged by relief measures introduced so far that have shown the concerns of foodservice are being heard,” says David Lefebvre, vice-president, Federal and Quebec, Restaurants Canada. “Without the steps already taken, the impacts on our industry would be even more devastating. In this time of crisis, it is reassuring to see governments, at all levels, come to the table with solutions.”

With restaurants now struggling to pay rent and other bills due in April, the Restaurants Canada has conducted a survey to shed light on the state of the industry. Responses from foodservice operators across the country have revealed:

• Four out of five restaurants have laid off employees since March 1.

• Seven in 10 foodservice operators will further cut back on staff hours or lay off more employees if conditions do not improve.

• Nearly one in 10 restaurants have already closed permanently and another 18 per cent will permanently close within a month if current conditions continue.

Breaking it down further, Western and Central Canada have been the hardest hit during the economic downturn.

Western Canada

The provinces affected most in Western Canada are B.C. and Alberta, losing 121,500 and 95,000 jobs respectively. Saskatchewan has lost approximately 25,000 restaurant jobs due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

All told, Western-Canadian provinces account for a $29.4 billion foodservice industry, with each province representing between three and five per cent of their respective provinces’ GDP.

“Urgent additional relief is required to help these businesses survive or there will be fewer jobs for the thousands of temporarily laid-off restaurant employees to return to once social-distancing measures are lifted,” says Mark von Schellwitz, vice-president, Western Canada, Restaurants Canada.

Central Canada

Ontario and Quebec have been the hardest hit, with Ontario reporting an estimated 300,000 foodservice jobs lost since March 1, the most of any province in Canada. Quebec has lost approximatly 175,000 foodservice jobs in the same time frame, ranking it the second-hardest hit. Manitoba has lost 28,000 jobs over the same time period.

Ontario and Quebec combine to make up more than half of the country’s foodservice industry revenue, a total of $53 billion. While Manitoba’s industry accounts for an additional $2.7 billion. The foodservice industry represents between three to four per cent of each provinces’ GDP and the survey forecasts that in central Canada alone, the Canadian foodservice industry could see loses of up to $11.9 billion in the second quarter of 2020.

The provincial governments of all central-Canadian provinces have been among the first  to step up and help the industry during these trying times.

“We commend the Manitoba government for deferring sales-tax collection and other measures taken to help restaurants preserve much-needed cash flow during this crisis,” says James Rilett, vice-president, Central Canada, Restaurants Canada. “Without the steps already taken, the impacts on our industry would be even more devastating. In this time of crisis, it is reassuring to see governments, at all levels, come to the table with solutions.”

“We commend the Quebec government for making sure restaurant delivery and takeout, including drive-thru, have been recognized as essential services throughout this crisis,” says Lefebvre. “We’re also encouraged by relief measures that continue to be introduced for small- and medium-sized businesses. Without the steps already taken, the impact of COVID-19 on our industry would be even more devastating.”

Atlantic Canada

In Atlantic Canada 24,500 jobs have been lost in Nova Scotia, with an additional 13,700 in New Brunswick and 10,000 in Newfoundland and Labrador.

In Atlantic Canada, the foodservice industry represents $4.8 billion and between three and five per cent of the provinces’ GDP. “Restaurants have played an essential role during this crisis, but are also uniquely challenged by the impacts of COVID-19. We need the government of Newfoundland and Labrador to work with our industry on innovative solutions to ensure our survival,” says Luc Erjavec, vice-president, Atlantic Canada, Restaurants Canada. “Without stronger action, our industry will be decimated.”

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