TORONTO — A new survey from Restaurants Canada has revealed nearly all foodservice businesses are concerned about their current debt levels and many won’t survive the impacts of COVID-19 without longer-term solutions.
While all levels of government have made extraordinary efforts to respond with emergency relief measures, restaurants are going to need more support as part of the transition to recovery. In fact, 75 per cent of survey respondents said they are either very or extremely concerned about their current level of debt.
If conditions don’t improve over the next three months:
- one out of every two independent restaurants do not expect to survive
- most multi-unit foodservice businesses will have to permanently shut down at least one of their locations
At least three quarters of respondents identified rent as a main source of debt for their operations, reinforcing the urgent need for relief in this area.
“Even the most experienced restaurateurs are struggling to meet their rent obligations, through no fault of their own, due to the unprecedented circumstances we’re all now facing,” says Shanna Munro, Restaurants Canada president and CEO. “COVID-19 has taken a devastating toll on small businesses, with restaurants being among the hardest hit. Even once restrictions are eased, they’re still going to need help to avoid closing down due to crushing levels of debt.”
“Restaurants Canada commends the federal government for leading a coordinated effort with the provinces and territories toward the creation of a Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program,” says David Lefebvre, Restaurants Canada vice-president, Federal and Quebec. “We look forward to ensuring the needs of foodservice businesses are addressed as part of this program so that they will be able to remain viable as the economy recovers from COVID-19.”
Restaurants Canada recommends the program include the following critical components:
- An immediate moratorium on evictions and lock-outs for commercial tenants. This would relieve pressure while stakeholders continue to develop solutions for the long term. Many restaurants haven’t been able to pay rent this month and are now at risk.
- Rent assistance at a percentage in line with decreased revenue. Deferrals and loans can help in the short term, but in the long term will contribute to more permanent closures due to insurmountable debt if not combined with mechanisms for relief.
- Measures that continue while the economy is still in recovery. Foodservice businesses will need a sustained period of support to ramp back up while consumer spending rebounds. Restaurants Canada recommends continuing rent relief measures until businesses have returned to a fixed percentage of pre-COVID-19 revenues.