Over the past year, the pandemic has spawned dramatic changes in our lives and in our businesses. It’s also fuelled the overuse of certain words in our vocabulary. How often have we heard the words “unprecedented,” “historic,” and, everyone’s favourite. “pivot?” While we’ve grown tired of hearing these words, we continue to use them because they aptly describe our dire reality and the repercussions the pandemic has foisted upon us.
But, with vaccines now rolling out in good measure, perhaps we can look forward to a return to some semblance of normalcy, possibly even as soon as this summer, when better weather will allow the industry to re-open outdoor patios.
The power of this pandemic is evident also in our own magazine’s editorial lineup. For the first time in our 50+ year history, in 2020 we suspended publishing our Top 100 Report, typically produced in June. Given the pandemic hit just as our editorial team was collecting data for this industry barometer, it became a challenge for us to complete the report. With the severity of what was going on globally, how could we expect operators to provide us with sales information just as they were struggling to keep their establishments open and their employees and family safe? Of course, no one could have ever imagined that 15 months later, we’d still be dealing with the ravaging effects of the pandemic. Little did we know the pandemic would fuel a roller coaster of lockdowns across the country and decimate the foodservice industry.
Not surprisingly, 2020 became the year everyone wanted to forget about — a write-off for so many operators, many of whom registered sales declines of anywhere between 30 to 70 per cent, while others were forced to close their units permanently. Given that context, it became a herculean task for us to also complete this year’s Top 100.
While sales data from public companies was still available, many private companies chose not to release their data. And who could blame them when declines were so steep? Adding another layer of complexity, mergers and acquisitions have so dramatically changed the face of the industry that power now rests in the hands of so few companies and with many of them opting to not break out sales by brands, the challenge became greater. While in the past we would have simply estimated the sales of a few companies in an attempt to provide as clear a picture of possible, with so many others declining to participate this year, it just didn’t make sense to do so. But it also didn’t make sense to not produce this report at all for the second year in a row. Therefore, in an effort to present the most accurate snapshot of this moment in time, in a year where nothing is as it was, the Top 100 became the Top 50.