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It’s show time!

It is that time of year again when we get to be a part of bringing the industry together—and what a force this industry is!

Our powerful sector has evolved dramatically over the years:  

While things have been busy organizing and putting the final touches on RC Show, we have continued to prioritize our advocacy efforts across the country. 

Last week I joined Vice-President of Central Canada Kris Barnier and Chief Economist Chris Elliott for a Queen’s Park meeting with Kyle Fritz, Director of Policy at the Minister of Labour’s Office. As the Ontario restaurant industry navigates challenges including ongoing inflationary pressures and increases in costs across the board, it’s critical we work together to find smart policy solutions, and soon. April 1st was a tough day for the industry with further increases to our operational costs. These will continue to be our focus. 

On the topic of smart policy, on March 31st I was pleased to chat about the industry’s federal liquor excise tax freeze at two per cent locked in until 2026, with CTV National (clip begins at 10:13). This is a big rollback from the planned 4.7 per cent increase and Restaurants Canada is pleased our advocacy work on behalf of already beleaguered restaurants was heard and responded to by government.

Next week we head back to Ottawa for National Tourism Week 2024 orchestrated by the Tourism Industry Association of Canada (TIAC) and meetings with the federal government. We will keep you posted on those discussions via LinkedIn and the next issue of the CEO note (April 22nd).

As always I was thrilled to join Jim Taylor and Derek Smith on the April 3rd episode of their new Tableside podcast to talk about new technologies and best practices that present potential solutions for operators. Jim will be joining two discussions at RC Show:  Financial Planning, Funding & Savings First, taking place Tuesday April 9th from 3:45 – 4:45 p.m. in StudioEx and The Mental Health Discussion for Entrepreneurs on Wednesday April 10th from 2:15-3:25 p.m. in StudioEx. It’s always great to hear his ideas.

Today is day one of the 79th edition of RC Show—let’s dig into this year’s incredible offering, filled with new technology, sustainable innovation, brilliantly engineered equipment and bright new ideas and F&B techniques delivered by top industry thought leaders and talent.

The three-day event kicks off with opening remarks and ribbon cutting by Ontario Premier Doug Ford. The Hon. Soraya Martinez Ferrada, Minister of Tourism, will join us for the afternoon and will close the day with remarks on April 8th at 4:45pm, on the Speaker Stage in Heritage Court. The Minister will be available to media afterwards in the media lounge.

The Restaurants Canada booth (#2001) is an oasis for members. Drop by as we celebrate 80 incredible years as the Voice of Foodservice and meet with Restaurants Canada’s government relations regional Vice-Presidents to share your perspectives on policy and advocacy. Connect with our member services team to learn more about Restaurants Canada resources, benefits, and cost-saving programs. Visit the Groupex Canada booth (#2201) to hear how they can save you time and money with their rebate programs.

The competitions at this year’s show gear up today, with the Garland Canada Culinary Competition semi-finals taking place on the Culinary Stage, with the final showdowns happening tomorrow. The RC Pizza Competition, presented by Restaurants Canada, Ardent Mills, Lactalis Foodservice and Dole, has expanded to a two-day format this year, with the Traditional-style competition happening today, followed by Creative-style tomorrow on the Pizza Stage. The Specialty Coffee Association and Dairy Farmers of Canada will present three national championships over the three days of Show: Latte Art, Cezve/Ibrik and Coffee in Good Spirits. The winner of each competition will go on to represent Canada at the World Championships in Copenhagen, Denmark. Beyond The Rail, the ever-popular cocktail competition presented by Beam Suntory kicks off this afternoon at 3:00 on the Bar & Beverage stage, with teams of two bartenders scaling up craft cocktails while delivering the highest quality of service. Don’t miss the brand-new Fried Chicken Sandwich Competition presented by Chicken Farmers of Canada, Club House for Chefs and Premium Foods & Direct Poultry, where competitors present their take on this trend-busting favourite menu item. Come out and cheer on the next generation of culinary, coffee and bar talent!

If you haven’t already done so, I recommend you reserve your table for the full-service Chef’s Picnic delivered by Executive Chef Missy Hui and the and/ore restaurant team at the RC Show Pop Up Experience, taking place all three days of RC Show. There are still a few tables for two to six people at $15 per person available, with all proceeds after taxes and fees donated to the Canadian Hospitality Foundation (CHF).


From Richard Alexander | Executive Vice-President, Government Relations & Public Affairs


Restaurants Canada concerned pressure on federal government to limit immigration may jeopardize foodservice labour relief efforts.

There are approximately 100,000 job vacancies in our industry. Although there has been some easing of supply in recent years, it is clear that immigration will remain a priority avenue for supplying our industry with labour.  

To say the federal government is feeling significant pressure to limit and curtail immigration is an understatement. Two recent announcements reflect this reality. The first is a decrease in the percentage of a workforce that can be made up by Temporary Foreign Workers (TFW) moving from 30 per cent to 20 per cent, and second, is the reduction to the hours international students may work.

In discussions with Minister Boissonnault’s office regarding both changes, it was shared with us that they are facing serious pressure to pause the TFW program completely in an attempt to reduce the pressure on housing. It also doesn’t help that some Premiers are publicly asking for a sharp decrease in temporary immigration.

We have made it clear to the federal government that limiting labour supply will have significant negative consequences for an already-struggling industry. We asked for a program to provide our industry with support for training (including on-the-job language training) and matching services for individuals on a PR path already in Canada. Significant numbers of these individuals remain unemployed in Canada, representing a strong potential supply of labour for our industry. 

We have received encouraging feedback from Minister Miller and Minister Boissonnault’s office on this ask. We are continuing discussions with both departments and hope to have more to report soon.

Minimum Wage Increases:

Restaurants Canada pushing provincial governments on offsets to balance impact on beleaguered industry.

It is that time of year again when governments across the country announce a raise for many in the private sector that government doesn’t have to pay for. I am talking about minimum wage legislation.

Recently announced minimum wage increases are just one of the many cost increases restaurants are struggling to absorb. When you add minimum wage to the list of recent increases such as carbon tax, alcohol excise tax, and insurance rates, you can understand why 63 per cent of restaurants are not operating at a profit. 

Restaurants Canada and many other associations across the country have, for many years, tried several approaches to minimum wage advocacy including making economic arguments, tying it to CPI to remove the politics, and trying to make increases predictable. All of these have, at best, had modest impact. Governments love increasing the minimum wage.

In the last few years, after push back from industry groups, we have begun to see governments implement offsets or “softeners” related to minimum wage increases. These offsets include such things as wage transition programs that provide funding to small businesses to ease the transition to a higher minimum wage, or cuts to wholesale prices for alcohol purchases.

Our government relations team is, right now, pushing every provincial government in the country to implement some type of minimum wage offset. We are making the case for our sector and helping governments understand that supporting our industry is good business. 


From Maximilien Roy| Vice-President, Federal & Québec

Federal: CBSA Assessment and Revenue Management (CARM)

Are you importing goods from other countries – directly?

If you import goods from other countries and are the importer, you will need to create an account on CBSA Assessment and Revenue Management (CARM) and start paying your duties and taxes.

CARM is the new IT system the Canadian government is putting in place to collect taxes and duties on imports that importers, customs brokers, and carriers will need to use, as part of phase two of the deployment of the technology.

On May 13, 2024, CARM will become the official system of record that importers and other trade chain partners will use to pay duties and taxes. Only those who import directly must register; if you are not the direct importer, you don’t need to worry about the May 13th deadline. 

The Canadian Border Service Agency (CBSA) organizes webinars to help businesses navigate this change; please let us know if you’d like to participate in a foodservice industry-specific webinar.

Federal: Immigration

You may know about the (RNIP), but have you heard about the RCIP and the FCIP?

If you are located in one of these communities, you may already be aware of the Rural and Northern Immigration (RNIP) pilot program, wherein the objective is to reduce the labour shortage by connecting businesses in remote communities with skilled newcomers and to help them towards permanent residence. The RNIP is open until July 31, 2024, if you wish to recommend candidates for permanent residence.

Immigration Minister Marc Miller announced two new pilots that will be launched this fall and that will be similar to the RNIP, while the government is working towards making the RNIP, the Rural Community Immigration Pilot (RCIP), and the Francophone Community Immigration Pilot (FCIP) permanent.

Selected communities for these two pilot programs will be announced later this spring. Stay tuned—we will keep you posted once the selected communities are known.  


From Jordi Morgan | Vice-President, Atlantic Canada

Atlantic: Minimum Wage Increases

As hourly rates rise across all Atlantic provinces, Restaurants Canada urges the application of a consistent standard.

As of April 1st, the minimum wage has risen across all four Atlantic provinces. Newfoundland and Labrador tacked on a 60-cent increase, bringing its hourly rate to $15.60—the highest in the region…for now. The hourly minimum is going up by 40 cents in Prince Edward Island to $15.40, but a further 60-cent increase comes into effect October 1st, which will bring the Island’s rate to $16.00.

New Brunswick is increasing its rate by 55 cents an hour to $15.30. The smallest increase is in Nova Scotia, where a 20-cent hike moves its rate to $15.20.

Restaurants Canada continues to impress upon all governments the need for a consistent standard by which to set the minimum wage, such as basing it on a factor of the median wage, both to depoliticize the process and create more predictability. Six per cent of workers earn the minimum wage, primarily in the accommodation and food service industry. We are continuing to push governments to implement offsets on minimum wage and help ease the burden these increases have on our struggling industry.

Nova Scotia: Savour Food & Wine Festival 2024

Ahead of the Restaurants Canada Show, the Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia (RANS) held its annual signature event, the Savour Food & Wine Festival, on March 28th at the Halifax Convention Centre.

I had the opportunity to attend and talk about tourism and foodservice innovation with the Hon. Gudie Hutchings, the Minister responsible for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) and Minister of Rural Economic Development who was on hand with ACOA Vice-President Chuck Maillet.

Over 1,000 folks had the opportunity to sample food and beverage products from across Nova Scotia. A reception and a preview were hosted ahead of the event by RANS Executive Director Natasha Chestnut and Joe McGuinness of Legendary Hospitality, operators of The BG, Durty Nelly’s, Antojo Taco + Tequila, Stubborn Goat Gastropub, Sketti & Ball, and Salt Yard Social, all in downtown Halifax.

Atlantic: Too Good to Go App Debuts

Waste reduction app offers surplus food at a discount to reduce waste and rescue restaurant profits.

A program to fight food waste at Tim Hortons expanded to major Atlantic Canadian locations over the Easter Weekend.

Too Good to Go started offering surplus end-of-day baked goods at a discounted price through its mobile app in some Canadian locations several months ago. As a store is getting ready to close for the day, leftover baked goods with a retail value of $15 are packaged and sold for $4.99 through the app. The contents could include doughnuts, Timbits, bagels, cookies, muffins, and other baked goods. The Too Good to Go app is available for download on Apple’s App Store and on Google Play.


From Kris Barnier | Vice President, Central Canada and the North

Manitoba: New NDP Government Announces First Budget

On April 2nd, the new NDP government delivered its first provincial budget, which primarily focuses on healthcare, affordability, and housing. The budget also includes several initiatives targeting public safety, including investments in policing and mental health as well as a $300 security system rebate for families and small businesses.   

Restaurants Canada will be reaching out to key government offices in the coming weeks for additional details and to ensure that input from our sector is considered as these policies are developed and implemented. We will also continue to push for additional measures to help your business.

Budget Highlights for the Manitoba Restaurant Industry:

  • $300 security system rebate for families and small businesses.
  • Increasing the policing budget by $13.5M and $6.3M for public safety initiatives.
  • Hiring more staff to process Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program applications.
  • Promise to extend the provincial gas tax cut (14 cents per litre) to Sept 30, 2024.
  • Hiring of 1,000 new health care workers.
  • Housing supports.
  • $10M in funding through the Low Carbon Economy Fund to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and additional funding for other climate sustainability initiatives.
  • Increased funding for apprenticeship training spaces and post-secondary education.
  • $10/day year-round childcare.
  • Commitment to lower auto insurance rates by 5%.

More information can be found here.

Manitoba: Meeting with Minister of Justice and Attorney General

Restaurants Canada and government officials met to discuss the effects of crime on local restaurants.

Restaurants Canada and the Manitoba Restaurant and Foodservices Association (MFRA) met with Minister of Justice and Attorney General Matt Wiebe to talk about why crime is an alarming crisis that must be addressed urgently.

We discussed how small businesses are absorbing significant costs related to vandalism, break and enter, and other hard costs associated with these kinds of crime. We also talked about how fear of violence is making it hard for restaurants to both attract and keep patrons and staff. The government is committed to working with industry over the coming months to ensure action is taken.

Manitoba: Upcoming Visit

I will be in Winnipeg on April 23rd to attend the Manitoba Hotel Association and Manitoba Restaurant & Foodservice Association Tradeshow and will also attend the MRFA Board of Directors meeting. I look forward to connecting with industry members and with key government offices.

Ontario: 2024 Budget

While Restaurants Canada welcomed some initiatives, the Ontario budget does not include any additional specific supports for our struggling restaurant sector. The budget includes initiatives that target housing affordability, labour and training funding, transportation, and energy costs.  

Kelly Higginson and I have met with numerous government officials and have additional meetings scheduled with the Premier and other ministers to help them understand how mounting and stacked costs are challenging the profitability and survivability of Ontario’s restaurants. Restaurants Canada is pushing the government to take action to offset these pressures with other policy actions focused on bringing relief to the sector.     

Ontario: Minimum Wage Going Up

The 3.9% increase to $17.20/hour comes into effect October 1, 2024.

The Ontario government has formally announced that, as we projected, Ontario’s general minimum wage will increase to $17.20 on October 1st. This hike represents a 3.9 per cent increase and is tied directly to the 3.9 per cent rise in Consumer Price Index for 2023. 

The student minimum wage will also rise to $16.20/hour. The government announcement can be found  here, and a the full list of minimum wage hikes can be found here.  As noted above, Restaurants Canada is pushing the Ontario government to bring relief that will offset the mounting pain from rising expenses. 

Ontario: Report from the Chief Medical Officer of Health – Alcohol, Tobacco, Drugs

Call for measures to reduce alcohol consumption in Ontario.

Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health recently called for various measures aiming to reduce alcohol consumption in Ontario.

The full report is available here, and recommendations pertaining to alcohol policy can be found on page 58. Among notable items, the Report calls on Ontario to:

  • Explore increasing the legal minimum drinking age from 19 to 21.
  • Increase legislated tax rates and minimum pricing per standard drink for all beverage types sold both on-and off—premises.
  • Automatically adjust the taxes and minimum prices annually to keep pace with inflation so alcohol does not become less expensive relative to other goods over time. 

We have engaged with our government contacts, and are confident the government does not intend to act on the above advice.   


From Mark von Schellwitz | Vice-President, Western Canada

British Columbia: BC Coalition for Affordable Dependable Energy (BC CADE)

Coalition urges municipal governments to roll back Zero Carbon Step Code regs in advance of planned 2030 provincial regulations.

On March 20th, the BC Coalition for Affordable Dependable Energy (BC CADE) was launched to combat various municipal efforts to pass Zero Carbon Step Code regulations that would ban natural gas fittings in future residential and commercial construction and would also jump the gun on the scheduled provincial 2030 Zero Carbon Step Code regulations.

BC CADE is asking municipal governments to stop eliminating choice for new residential and commercial buildings and to allow builders to decide what’s best for themselves, rather than imposing one-option-only for new construction. The March 20th BC CADE launch media release received media attention, which was successful in alerting British Columbians to the issue.

Restaurants Canada is a founding member of the Coalition which includes a wide range of business associations, trade unions, and other stakeholders concerned with the implications of these policies on access to affordable, dependable energy. These policies would impose unnecessarily costly expenses on homeowners and businesses. Converting to electric cooking would also fundamentally change foodservice operations, as cooks and chefs rely on natural gas stoves in preparing meals.

More information on the new BC Coalition for Affordable Dependable Energy can be found on the BC CADE website.

British Columbia: Public Health Accountability and Cost Recovery Act

Further to the update in the last CEO note on the recent introduction of Bill 12-Public Health Accountability and Cost Recovery Act, Restaurants Canada reached out to a number of associations to make them aware of the legislation. If passed, the Bill would allow government to recoup costs by suing a wide range of companies that provide goods and services to British Columbians if their product or service is alleged to have caused disease, injury, or illness, or even the risk of it, and the government has incurred costs related to that disease, injury, illness, or risk.

As a result of these discussions, on March 28th Restaurants Canada and a coalition of 20 business associations, sent a letter to Premier Eby copying all BC MLAs on the business community’s concerns over the sweeping scope of the legislation.

Since the letter was sent, Restaurants Canada has met with the Premier’s office and senior Jobs, Economic Development, and Innovation Ministry officials to discuss members’ concerns with the legislation. A joint business association meeting has also been arranged with the Hon. Niki Sharma, BC Attorney General, to address the objective of the legislation and discuss our concerns with the legislation as written.

There are still a few tickets remaining for Wednesday’s Breakfast With Champions, Restaurants Canada’s top-rated morning event. This year’s speaker lineup is incredible and promises to leave all of us with food for thought and fire in our bellies (along with an incredible breakfast!). Grab your tickets before they’re gone!

In closing, today is the last day to fill out the Q2 2024 Restaurant Outlook Survey. If you’ve filled it out already, thank you so much. If you have not, there are still a few hours left to add your information to support our critical research and advocacy work on behalf of our industry.

I’m off to RC Show and hope to meet you there!

Kelly Higginson