After a long, lingering 16 months, dealing with the ravages of a virulent pandemic, restaurant operators are back doing what they love most: preparing food and drinks for their customers. While the pandemic is far from over, there is finally a light at the end of the tunnel and while it will take months of recovery, across this country most operators are back to work, whether serving food inside their restaurants at reduced capacity or serving customers al fresco.
With more than 60 per cent of the Canadian population now vaccinated with their first dose, it appears we are getting our wish for a good summer as Canadians become more comfortable leaving their homes and returning to some semblance of normalcy. While this is good news, it will take a great deal of hard work, and lots of time to get back to what our lives were like pre-pandemic.
Operators are mindful of this fact. For those who were able to survive through this dark period, it will require patience, diligence and creativity — not to mention intestinal fortitude — to get back to profitability. The lessons learned through the pandemic, including the acceleration to technology, the importance of takeout and delivery, the pivoting to new revenue streams and menu streamlining will hopefully lead operators to greater success. Interestingly, compared to the U.S., where more than half of restaurants said the pandemic made their foodservice operation more efficient and productive compared to March 2020, a somewhat surprising 30 per cent of foodservice respondents in Canada believe the pandemic made their foodservice operation more efficient and productive.
While we’ve spent more than a year wondering how long the pandemic will last, the question we’ll be asking now is just how long will it take to get back to normal — whatever normal may now be. According to an Outlook Survey undertaken by Restaurants Canada in early May, it will take months to return to profitability: 75 per cent of table-service restaurants say it would take 12 months or longer to return to profitability.
Already south of the border, where restaurants have returned to full normalcy, labour shortages are becoming pervasive as restaurants become desperate for workers. In Canada, 60 per cent of respondents feel that reducing operating costs and bringing back/finding new staff will be the biggest challenge they face for their business.
Still despite the magnitude of the challenges ahead, operators are thrilled to be back at work and almost 50 per cent of them are feeling very or somewhat optimistic about the next 12 months. Quick-service restaurants are the most optimistic about the future, with 54 per cent very or somewhat optimistic.
Written by Rosanna Caira