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Mental Health Week begins today, with the theme: “healing with compassion” and a call to be kind.

Mental Health Week begins today, with the theme: “healing with compassion” and a call to be kind.

Reflecting on the past four years, it’s apparent that our industry has been through incredible challenges. As we welcome May, restaurateurs are at a crucial juncture defined by hope and cautious optimism. The arrival of patio season brings the excitement of warmer weather despite its unpredictability, and while tourism numbers remain uncertain and inflation presents ongoing hurdles, the resilience of those at the forefront is more apparent and more fragile than ever.

Notably, despite 62 per cent of restaurants struggling to return to profitability—up from 12 per cent pre-pandemic—the feedback from operators has been instrumental in highlighting the vital importance of supporting mental health within the industry. The commitment to addressing these wellness concerns is not just about improving the bottom line, but enriching the emotional and psychological health of those leading the way and those who look to and rely on their leadership.

May, Mental Health Month in Canada, serves as a reminder that prioritizing mental health is not a luxury.  It’s a business necessity.

As many owners and operators get better at discussing, investing in and committing to nurturing the well-being of their frontline workers, they must also prioritize their own mental health. After all, they are the captains of their respective ships, steering their businesses and teams through turbulent waters. As stress levels rise, the need for self-awareness and the importance of self-check-ins only increases, yet too often in the midst of managing staffing, revenue forecasts, and operational logistics, owners and operators neglect their own mental health. Recognizing the toll that continuous challenges, changes and care for others can take on personal wellbeing is not only an act of self-awareness and personal care, but a business necessity.

Creating a healthy work-life balance is a fundamental aspect of sustainable entrepreneurship. Throughout Mental Health Month, emphasis is placed on practical strategies for maintaining equilibrium. From regular exercise and nourishing meals to adequate sleep and moments of joy, we are providing resources that are accessible and as useful to owners and operators as they are for your team.

You can access a selection of helpful mental health resources and Restaurants Canada content on

Last week, Vice President, Federal & Québec Maximilien Roy represented Restaurants Canada at the Fourth Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC-4) conference in Ottawa. This global conference brings together delegations, partners, and stakeholders to address the challenges around plastics pollution. We were proud to see some of our leading members participate in the events and look forward to continuing to work with our industry to address ongoing challenges in the sustainability space. Jillian Rodak, Restaurants Canada’s new VP Sustainability provides more details in her inaugural report below. 

On April 22nd, I had the pleasure of an evening spent with Chief Economist Chris Elliott and EVP of Government Relations and Public Affairs Richard Alexander at theCanada 2020 Economic Lookahead Dinner in Toronto. It was fascinating to hear Mark Carney speak about the future of Canada and join in the conversation on our country’s economic outlook and what governments, innovators, and economic leaders can do to build growth for all.

As we head into the crucial patio season, we were delighted to celebrate wins for Toronto restaurants. I was able to join Mayor Olivia Chow and her team to launch the first CaféTO patio build! It’s gratifying to see that, while there have been fewer applications to the program for this year, the process and rollout has been smoother for regional restaurants. We really appreciate the city’s follow through on streamlining this process for local operators. You can read more in this article from the Toronto Star.

Restaurants Canada President and CEO Kelly Higginson joins Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow for CaféTO’s first build of the patio season.

Next, I ventured to beautiful Halifax, Nova Scotia, where I had the pleasure of spending time with Vice President, Atlantic Jordi Morgan. This visit offered a front-row seat to the extraordinary restaurant scene infused with authentic East Coast hospitality. Halifax’s dining culture and food scene sparkles with creativity, innovation and an entrepreneurial flair that adds a dynamism and vibrancy to the area. I also had the chance to visit several new restaurants-in-the-making. It’s remarkable to experience the resilience and inventive spirit of Nova Scotia’s restaurateurs firsthand, and I am grateful to have been given the opportunity.

Restaurants are a huge contributor to the tourism product of the East Coast and, as the fourth-largest private employer, they are key economic and social drivers in communities across the province. I was able to speak to this during a television interview with Todd Battis on CTV News Atlantic to discuss the need for financial support for the foodservice industry.

On May 5th, we attended the Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia (RANS) Rare and Fine Wine Tasting, an evening for the true wine lover, which I may be known to be. Taking place at Casino Nova Scotia, we joined in experiencing a selection of fine, beautiful wines and live music while meeting with local food, beverage and tourism stakeholders and had meaningful discussions with RANS members about our aligned goals and advocacy priorities. 

Meetings with colleagues and attendees gave us a good opportunity to continue advocating for the needs of Nova Scotia operators. With the tourism season fast approaching, it’s essential for Nova Scotia’s key industry—encompassing communities, tourism, and the broader economy—to know that it has the steadfast support of the provincial government and we continue our work on this front.


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

Restaurants Canada Labour Supply Campaign Underway

Over the coming weeks you will see more of Restaurants Canada’s efforts to improve the supply of labour for our industry. Given the tightening of some of our traditional sources of labour due to shifting public support for immigration, Restaurants Canada has pivoted to target open work permits for newcomers.

We are lobbying for a government-run program that provides matching and training services for employment opportunities in our wonderful industry. In numerous meetings with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) in Ottawa, officials have been receptive and you can learn more about our proposal in the sections below.

Regional VPs are currently lobbying the provinces to support our federal-level ask leading up to a meeting of provincial and federal immigration ministers on May 10th.

Our communications plan is in full swing, and we are launching a letter-writing campaign immediately following the May 10th meeting.

This campaign will utilize our Table Talk series video on immigration featuring Menthe and Couscous. You can watch it here.

You can help. Please like and share anything and everything you see on this matter (and in general!) from Restaurants Canada on your social channels. With more than 30,000 Restaurants Canada members, we have an incredible opportunity to amplify our voice.

The opportunity

There are currently one million open work permitted newcomers in Canada made up of asylum seekers, refugees and international students. Unfortunately, newcomers often face significant barriers to full-time Canadian employment, with large numbers of them currently unemployed.   

The restaurant industry has 78,000 vacancies across Canada and a solid track record of supporting newcomers. This represents a win-win-win for governments, newcomers and the restaurant industry.

How a matching and training program can help newcomers, governments, and the restaurant industry

Targeted settlement supports are necessary to ensure newcomer success. Several programs to connect newcomers with employment opportunities and train them for success have been run in our country with strong, positive results.

An example of one of these successful programs was the Destination Employment Pilot run from 2019 until 2021. While the pilot did not fully take advantage of the full scope of opportunities in the restaurant industry, expanding the program to the broader restaurant industry would increase its positive results for newcomers.

The Destination Employment Pilot facilitated newcomers’ entry into the hospitality/tourism industry by matching them with suitable jobs and providing training and skill development to enhance their employability and meet industry standards. On-the-job language training was a key component and benefit, resulting in more cost-effective English/French language education.

A third-party evaluation of the pilot extolled its successes and recommended scaling up the program.

Newcomers thrive in the restaurant industry

The food and accommodation sectors are the largest employers of immigrants and newcomers to Canada. Immigration is essential for Canada, providing economic, social, and cultural benefits. Half of all Canadian restaurants are run by entrepreneurs who came here as immigrants and 31 per cent of restaurant owners belong to visible minority groups.


From Jillian Rodak | Vice President, Sustainability

Restaurants Canada attended INC-4, the UN Environment Programme’s intergovernmental negotiating committee on plastic pollution. The foodservice industry was well represented at the session, showcasing the ambitious progress the industry is taking on plastics in Canada.

Restaurants Canada will begin engagement with the BC government on the recently launched consultation on non-residential packaging waste and will be working to develop a submission response by the July 23rd deadline. At the Federal level, the Plastics Registry Notice was published in late April, with the Phase 1 of reporting deadline of September 29, 2025, for single-use or disposable products destined for the residential waste stream.

Restaurants Canada is planning engagement in Ottawa to gain clarity on outstanding questions and concerns on the registry.


From Maximilien Roy| Vice-President, Federal & Québec

Major Reduction on Off-Campus Work Hours for International Students

Starting April 30th, international students cannot work off campus for more than 20 hours per week.

This news coincides with the expiry of the temporary regulation that lifted this cap but, more importantly, in the context of a series of claims that some institutions granted “fake business degrees” to students who hope to stay in Canada, Immigration Minister Marc Miller has announced that the cap would be raised to 24 hours this fall.

We’re disappointed to see the cap reduced to 20 hours, especially in light of the fact our industry faces the most significant labour shortage amongst private-sector industries and summer is peak season for many restaurants. Additionally, Minister Miller had previously hinted that the cap could potentially be set at 30 hours per week, which would have been much more palatable for the industry.

We will continue to advocate for more flexibility for international students, and other measures to help our industry manage the labour shortage.

Reminder: Changes to Temporary Foreign Workers Program

As of May 1st, there is a reduction from 30 per cent to 20 per cent for the total workforce that can come in through the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) for businesses in the foodservice industry. This means that after May 1st, new applications for TFWs will be assessed towards the percentage of TFWs you have now: if TFWs account for over 20 per cent of your workforce, the new request will be denied.

Note that there is an exemption to this cap for low-wage positions in seasonal industries that do not go beyond 270 calendar-days; Restaurants with a peak season that want to apply for that exemption are allowed to do so. More information can be found on this page.

Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIAs) will now also only be valid for six months instead of 12 months. Businesses will also need to demonstrate their efforts to recruit asylum seekers with valid work permits when submitting their LMIAs.


From Jordi Morgan | Vice-President, Atlantic Canada

Nova Scotia: Restaurants Canada Connects for Key Meetings and Minimum Wage Advocacy in Halifax

Restaurants Canada President and CEO Kelly Higginson travelled to Halifax last week for meetings with restaurateurs, politicians, government officials and her local counterparts in the industry. While here, Kelly was able to make appearances on The Todd Veinotte Show on Halifax CityNews 95.7 and Global News about two emergent issues in Nova Scotia: the pausing of applications by the immigration department’s Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) for our sector, and the ask to government for minimum wage transition relief.

Jordi Morgan, Restaurants Canada VP Atlantic; Kelly Higginson, Restaurants Canada President and CEO; Ava Czapalay, Deputy Minister, Labour, Skills and Immigration; and Natasha Chestnut, Executive Director, Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia

Kelly and Atlantic VP Jordi Morgan were joined by Natasha Chestnut, Executive Director of the Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia (RANS) for meetings with officials in the Department of Labour, Skills and Immigration (LSI) and the Minister of Economic Development, the Hon. Susan Corkum-Greek

Restaurants Canada is asking the Nova Scotia government to follow the lead of Newfoundland and Labrador’s government in providing help to restaurants struggling with a string of minimum wage increases. We are urging the province to observe similar actions taken by their counterparts and their reasons for doing so, and to consider adopting similar strategies.

Ongoing mandated wage hikes have been happening at the worst possible time for our members. These costs must be recovered either on the menu or straight off the bottom line. Many operators are struggling to keep menu inflation in check, even as sixty-two percent of restaurants in this country are currently either losing money or just breaking even.

Minimum wage increases are also having unintended consequences. Back-of-house and kitchen staff are being denied increases because they often make more than minimum wage. Their front-of-house colleagues, whose compensation is a blend of minimum wage plus tips, must receive the mandated increase; however, with their gratuities, these employees are already earning a much higher paycheck. A server in a mid-range, full-service family restaurant in Canada earns on average a total of $62/hour. It is unfair when employers are forced to provide mandated minimum wage increases to tipped employees – resulting in less money to provide raises for others.

Since the start of the pandemic, Nova Scotia has increased minimum wage seven times, rising 31 per cent or $3.25/hour. The server in a mid-range family, full-service restaurant in Canada earns on average a total of $62.57 per hour.

We are hopeful Nova Scotia will recognize the additional burden they have put on operators during this difficult period and provide help for the recovery of the sector.

Additionally, we are asking the Immigration and Population Growth Branch of LIR to work with the industry to help our members navigate issues that have arisen from this unexpected pause in PNP applications. Many members, especially those in rural areas, continue to be heavily dependent on these programs to augment their workforce. The federal government provides the province 3,570 allocations for provincial nominees. As of mid-April, the department had received over 3,000 applications from foodservice and accommodation looking for workers. 

In addition to these meetings, Kelly had the opportunity to have lunch with the new CEO of WorkSafe Nova Scotia, Karen Adams, and was provided tours of three new restaurants under construction throughout Halifax by Restaurants Canada Board members Hakan Uluer, Kent Scales, and Bill Pratt.


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

Manitoba: Meetings with MFRA Board of Directors & Manitoba Government

I was very excited to be in Manitoba from April 22-24 as a guest of Shaun Jeffrey, CEO of the Manitoba Restaurant and Food Services Association (MRFA) and his board of directors.

Shaun and I spoke with the MRFA Board about the dire situation facing the province’s restaurants and bars. We talked about how rising costs, decisions from all levels of government, and changing consumer behaviors are challenging profitability to the point where most of our country’s restaurants and bars are losing money or barely breaking even.  We also discussed how vandalism, theft and rising crime rates are terrifying operators, patrons, and restaurant staff and negatively impacting operators’ bottom lines. Shaun and I also presented relevant policy recommendations we are building to take to the Manitoba government on behalf of our shared members.

Shaun and I also jointly met with the Manitoba Premier’s Office and engaged with senior staff representing key ministers whose portfolios closely align with member priorities. We helped them understand the important role our members play as employers, buyers of goods and services from other businesses, taxpayers, and community builders. We demonstrated how market forces and government policies are driving up operating costs at a pace that far exceeds revenue and explained why governments must work with our sector to help members return to profitability and keep their staff, patrons and selves safe from crime.

Manitoba: MHA & MRFA Show

While in Winnipeg, I had the pleasure of attending the 2024 MHA & MRFA Show. The largest of its kind in Western Canada, this impressive show offered a showcase of fantastic food and beverages and the chance to meet and speak with many business operators including security companies, insurers and other people and groups serving the restaurant and bar sector. 

Thanks to Shaun and the MRFA board for extending the invitation.        

Manitoba: Government Announcements:

Ontario: Meetings with Key Government Offices Continue

I have remained engaged with the Premier’s Office and several other key government offices on the struggles facing the restaurant and foodservice industry and to discuss opportunities for expense relief. Expect to hear more on these discussions in the coming weeks.

Ontario: More Opportunities for Ontario Small Businesses to Compete for Government Procurement Contracts

A new regulation under the Building Ontario Businesses Initiative Act, 2022 (BOBIA) will enhance the ability of Ontario companies to bid for procurement contracts from public sector entities such as hospitals, school boards, and universities. This regulation benefits a wide array of businesses across Ontario and is designed to help level the playing field to allow small businesses greater access to the $3 billion in provincial contracts scheduled to be awarded to Ontario businesses through to 2026.

Read the full release here.


From Mark von Schellwitz | Vice-President, Western Canada

Vancouver: May 27th Member Reception Reminder

Further to the Save the Date in the last CEO note inviting all BC Restaurants Canada members to join the Restaurants Canada Board of Directors and Leadership Team for a May 27th reception and industry awards presentation in Vancouver at Joey One 507 Burrard Street, this is a reminder to RSVP as space is limited. Here again are the invite details. 

Please RSVP to by May 13th.

BC: Victory! BC Public Health Accountability and Cost Recovery Act Paused

Further to previous Bill 12 updates, we are pleased to report that in response to lobbying efforts by Restaurants Canada and several other business sector stakeholders voicing liability concerns with Bill 12- Public Health Accountability and Cost Recovery Act, the BC government decided to pause the legislation. As the initial target of the legislation was online digital platforms, in announcing the legislative pause, the government also announced that they reached an agreement with digital platform companies for a BC Online Safety Action Table.

The decision to pause the legislation follows a couple of weeks of intensive lobbying activities including meetings with ministers, opposition MLAs, the Premier’s office, and the Attorney General to address the business community’s concerns. We are pleased the government listened to our concerns and paused the legislation. Given the upcoming BC election in October, it is unlikely there will be any further developments on possible public health cost recovery legislation until after the election. 

Preventing BC Non-Residential Packaging and Paper Products Consultation 

The BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change has launched a consultation and discussion paper on preventing non-residential packaging and paper waste. As this has implications for foodservice, Restaurants Canada has been invited to provide a submission responding to the discussion paper’s questions by July 23, 2024. Interested members may want to sign up for upcoming info sessions to learn more about the discussion paper and consultation. In the coming weeks we will also invite BC Environment Ministry staff to participate in a Restaurants Canada member webinar on the issue.

Further information on the consultation can be found at

We all know how all-consuming and isolating entrepreneurship and leadership can be, and this is especially true for women as the higher we climb, the thinner our numbers. For all women leaders in the industry planning to attend the National Restaurant Association (NRA) Show in Chicago May 18-21st, I encourage you to register for theLet’s Talk Womxn and National Restaurant Association Show Women Leaders Reception, presented by Sysco.

This special networking session is an opportunity to meet and hear from top women leaders in our industry including Michelle Korsmo, President & Chief Executive Officer of the National Restaurant Association, Let’s Talk Womxn founder Rohini Dey, Ph.D., Adrienne Trimble, Chief Diversity & Culture Officer for Sysco and myself.

Affording ourselves the time to re-energize and explore new relationships, ideas and inspiration is part of mental health, self-care and the idea that #CompassionConnects us all.

Kelly Higginson