Since the pandemic began in March, 10,000 restaurants across Canada have closed and Restaurants Canada is warning that half of the independent restaurants in the country could close permanently if conditions don’t improve.
The industry group is asking consumers to step up to the plate – or the takeout counter – to stem what it is calling an unprecedented recession.
“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,” said a release from Restaurants Canada.
A recent Canadian Chamber of Commerce survey found that 29 per cent of foodservice businesses cannot operate with social distancing in effect and 31 per cent of foodservice businesses say they can only operate with social distancing for 90 days.
In many regions, including recently in Alberta, all bars and most restaurants have been forced to close due to COVID-19.
As the holiday season begins, the industry group has launched a national campaign with the tagline ‘picture life without restaurants’ that called on consumers to support their local eateries through dine-in, where possible, takeout or delivery, or buying gift cards.
“The vast majority of Canadian consumers are concerned that restaurants in their community may not survive,” said Todd Barclay, president and CEO of Restaurants Canada. “The holiday season is usually one of the busiest times of the year for restaurants. This year, with so many under lockdown, it will be devastating. We are asking consumers to take a stand and show their support for their local restaurants during this crucial time of the year.”
No other industry has been hit as hard as the restaurant industry during this pandemic, Barclay noted. At the height of the crisis, an estimated 800,000 jobs were lost or had hours reduced to zero. Since then the industry has struggled to recover due to revolving restrictions across Canada, with 21 per cent of the restaurant workforce not yet recovered, according to Restaurant Canada.
Before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada’s foodservice sector was a $93 billion industry, directly employing 1.2 million people. The industry could lose as much as $31 billion in sales in 2020 due to the impacts of COVID-19, Restaurant Canada estimates.
“It really does take a village and together we can support the foodservice and hospitality industry– for all those times they supported us,” Barclay said.