TORONTO — CaféTO, a program that was originally a lifeline for restaurants throughout the course of the pandemic in Toronto, is now poised to cause further challenges for struggling restaurant operators due to new measures proposed by the city. The program is being made permanent, but will include new fees, administration, red tape, labour and infrastructure costs that will negatively impact restaurants.
With the thousands of dollars in new added costs per restaurant to participate in CaféTO, building materials, permit and application fees, labour for build out and tear downs, among others, operators are questioning the practicality of their participation in the program.
In fact, the City of Toronto’s survey of operators in November 2022 about the re-introduction of fees found that 60 per cent of operators said it would likely impact their decision to open a curb-lane café.
“Restaurants Canada is encouraged to see the CaféTO program modified to become a permanent resource for local restaurants to increase revenue during our sector’s high season while adding liveliness to the city’s neighbourhoods. However, the program comes with newly proposed costs, red tape and administration challenges that have many of our restaurant members questioning whether they will be able to afford to participate in the program,” says Kelly Higginson, COO of Restaurants Canada. “The unfortunate reality is that 50 per cent of Canadian restaurants are operating at a loss or just breaking even so now is not the time to increase their costs. Toronto’s downtown core has still not recovered post-pandemic, as high vacancy rates in neighbouring buildings continue to have a significant impact on traffic to restaurants. Hundreds of restaurants have shuttered permanently in the past three years, devastating the industry and changing the character and vibrancy of many of Toronto’s neighbourhoods.”