IN response to restrictions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Restaurants Canada (RC) hosted RC Show 2021 ONLINE LIVE — the show’s first completely virtual edition.
The event, which ran from February 28 to March 3, offered more solution-based content, aligned with smaller experiential RC Hospitality Week events — all designed to support one of the hardest-hit sectors of the Canadian economy.
“ [Last year] was a devastating year for the foodservice industry and we have to adapt and adjust at a faster rate than ever before,” said Todd Barclay president & CEO, Restaurants Canada. “This is the time for our industry to re-build, re-invent and re-connect.”
Hosted by television broadcaster Richard Cazeau, the show kicked off with Restaurant Canada’s Industry Outlook. Lauren van den Berg, executive vice-president, Government Relations, Restaurants Canada, started by providing a high-level overview of the strategic key messages RC delivered to all levels of government, as well as a snapshot of activities currently underway.
“Our overall message to government has been our industry recommendations and proposals that are nationwide recovery plans and solutions that will help to secure a sustainable future for the restaurants across the country,” said van den Berg.
Next, RC’s senior economist, Chris Elliot shared data about where the industry is headed, the latest consumer and sales trends and talked about what these market behaviours mean for your business.
“I want to tackle the biggest question that’s on [everyone’s] mind,” said Elliot. “When can we get back to [gathering] with our friends and family at our favourite restaurant or bar.”
According to the data, Elliot predicts real GDP/total consumer spending is forecast to return to pre-COVID-19 levels around Q4 2021, but, “We predict foodservice sales will return to pre-COVID-19 levels around Q4 2022,” he said.
He said quick-service restaurants will be the first to recover, while drinking places will be the last. “Recovery will vary by province,” he said, “as population determines long-term foodservice sales growth.”
The theme of growth continued in the session, Are Canadians Ready to Come Back?: Data Insights on Canadian Consumers. Shauna Houlton, director, Consumer Insights, Corus Entertainment and Janet Zuccarini, CEO & owner, Gusto 54 Restaurant Group, took an in-depth look at how consumers’ feelings have shifted throughout the pandemic and what that means for restaurants.
According to Houlton, Canadians stuck at home since COVID-19 appeared last March have been putting their money into savings and there is a pent-up demand to get out and spend. That, said Zuccarini, is good for the restaurant industry.
“I’m extremely bullish on the restaurant industry [future] as a whole,” said Zuccarini. “And with [people’s] savings at an all-time high, the first place they’re going to want to spend it is to go out to restaurants. And people are absolutely craving to be with their their family and break bread.”
She also said those operators who survive will see a silver lining. “Business will come back 100 per cent — even stronger — because there’ll be less competition, unfortunately. So, the restaurants that survive will have more business because of less competition. And the silver lining is, if you survive, you’ll be able to cut better real-estate deals, you’ll be able to buy real estate at a more affordable price and the talent pool will increase, unfortunately, with restaurants closing and freeing up a lot of talent.”