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We are a national community of restaurateurs. Our collective action can and will make our operating environment easier, but it will require everyone to act.

This week’s update is focused on a new Restaurants Canada campaign calling for a reduction in EI premiums: Lift the Strain. Regional VP reporting will return in the next edition of the CEO Update.

Professor Ian Lee of Carlton University presents the findings from his report on the impact of EI Premiums on small business at a press conference in Ottawa while Restaurants Canada’s President and CEO, Kelly Higginson, looks on. 

We are a national community of restaurateurs. Our collective action can and will make our operating environment easier, but it will require everyone to act.

To be successful in this campaign, we need YOU, our members, to help. We are asking you to participate in our letter writing campaign and advocate with us on your social channels. Please read on and take action TODAY. It will only take a few minutes.

Our industry has shown remarkable resilience in recent years, overcoming economic uncertainties and unprecedented challenges. Today, as the fourth-largest private sector employer in Canada, restaurants are more than just dining establishments; they are vital job powerhouses.

As small businesses from all sectors will no doubt attest, relentless headwinds have made it impossible for many to continue, evidenced by the small business bankruptcy rate, which has doubled since 2019.

The livelihoods of countless employees, especially youth and newcomers, depend on the success of our restaurants. When we struggle, the impact is felt far beyond our doors—affecting suppliers, local economies, and the vibrant communities we help sustain.

Restaurants have to be economically viable to achieve their broader purpose within our communities. In findings outlined in a recent, important report, “On the Precipice – Help is Needed,” by Carleton University Associate Professor Ian Lee, PhD, EI premium increases threaten to be the final nail in the small business coffin. Restaurants and other small businesses are already buckling under the combined weight of crushing rent, utility and food costs, topped by pandemic-related debt repayments and minimum wage increases.

To address these challenges, Restaurants Canada has announced our latest campaign to Lift the Strain on small businesses and restaurants across the country. Here are our key points:

  • In 2020, the government froze EI premiums for two years to prevent increased costs for Canadian businesses during the pandemic.
  • Given the current bankruptcies and affordability challenges, an immediate reduction in EI premiums is necessary. Doing so now is realistic and doable.
  • We are recommending that the federal government reduce the EI premium to the 2020 level of 1.58%.
  • This reduction would provide immediate relief for small businesses and taxpayers, offering essential support to ensure restaurants can continue to operate, provide jobs, and secure a brighter future for our communities.

Your support for this campaign is urgent and crucial to our advocacy work. Please join our letter-writing campaign and urge your local MP to reduce the EI premium to 1.58%.

A Lift the Strain campaign package with social assets for you to use on your own social media channels can be foundhere.

Learn more and stay informedhere.


National Post: Restaurants Canada urges reduction in EI Premiums to immediately Lift the Strain on Small Businesses

As we celebrate Pride Month, we are energized and inspired by the vibrant celebrations taking place across the country. The hospitality industry plays an important and central role in welcoming and supporting members of the LGBTQ2S+ community, both as cherished guests and valued employees. So many of our restaurants are proud to be inclusive spaces where diversity is celebrated, and everyone can feel welcome and respected. I encourage you to take the time to read MENU magazine’s exclusive online article, “Flying the Flag with Pride,” which explores the meaning of the Pride flag and what it truly signifies to display it.

MENU also features “The Conversation,” an insightful interview with Miss Niki Nikita, a long-time Toronto hospitality worker who is now a full-time multidisciplinary performance artist. Niki shares her experiences as a Trans woman during those formative years, from both the consumer and employee perspectives, and offers valuable advice on how foodservice can welcome and support the LGBTQ2S+ community in their spaces and on their teams. I thank Niki for her generosity and candour and hope we all take the time to read her story and learn from her.

Last week, Anna Pham, Restaurants Canada’s Director of Content and Programming attended the DEFY Conference 2024, Canada’s largest supplier diversity conference in Montreal, presented by the Supplier Diversity Alliance Council (SDAC).This first-of-its-kind, three-day conference brings together diverse entrepreneurs, corporate leaders, government, and ecosystem partners to learn, connect, and drive change through business, with keynotes, matchmaking sessions, and fun-filled events. The event was hosted by the Canadian Aboriginal and Minority Supplier Council (CAMSC), Canadian 2SLGBTQI+ Chamber of Commerce (CGLCC), and Inclusive Workplace Supply Council of Canada (IWSCC), which offer rich certification programs designed to connect and grow business for diverse entrepreneurs.

Working with suppliers from diverse communities is a strategic business decision that not only helps promote inclusion and equality, but has also been proven to foster innovation, strengthen local economies, and build resilient supply chains. Attending events like DEFY and connecting with diverse suppliers is a meaningful way to contribute to a more equitable and vibrant community. As Canadian demographics change, diversifying your supplier roster can also help build social connections that can open new business, and talent attraction and retention opportunities.

June is National Indigenous History Month, and this Friday, June 21st is National Indigenous People’s Day, a time to honour the rich cultures, traditions, and contributions of Indigenous peoples and the true history of our country.

In April, Restaurants Canada was proud to welcome the first-ever Indigenous Pavilion, presented by FCC, to RC Show. The Pavilion and the rich array of supporting tastings, presentations and programming brought Indigenous culinarians, restaurateurs and suppliers together to showcase Indigenous flavours, ideas and ingredients and open up new conversations and partnerships. We learned a great deal from that experience and hope to bring it back bigger in 2025. I hope you have the opportunity to get out to experience and support Canada’s growing Indigenous culinary and food community from coast to coast to coast this month and all year long.

Yours in fueling a strong, vibrant and profitable industry that welcomes and supports all,

Kelly Higginson