Alberta throne speech fails to address foodservice crisis

Published March 20, 2019

With a provincial election called for April 16, Restaurants Canada is sounding an alarm over the lack of solutions to Alberta’s ongoing foodservice crisis in the NDP government’s fifth and final throne speech of the province’s 29th legislature.

What restaurateurs across Alberta are going through right now is not just business as usual — our industry is experiencing a quiet but deeply felt crisis that is having ripple effects for the rest of the economy.

Given that running a foodservice business is a highly competitive, labour-intensive effort — with an average pre-tax profitability of only about 5 per cent in Alberta — the rise and fall of local restaurants is a natural part of any city’s landscape. But a perfect storm of tax increases and painful policy changes have worsened conditions for restaurants across the province over the last four years.

According to data from Statistics Canada, Alberta’s foodservice sales growth led the nation between 2004 and 2014, but has ranked second to last of all the provinces since 2015.

Policies that were intended to boost earnings and reduce the cost of living for Albertans have instead resulted in:

  • A loss of more than 10,000 foodservice and accommodation jobs.
  • A decline in the average number of workers per unit from 13 to 11.7.
  • A 9.1 per cent drop in average sales per unit (adjusted for menu inflation).

Foodservice is everyone’s business

Alberta’s $11 billion foodservice sector is a major contributor to economic growth and spaces for people to come together.

With more than 150,000 workers, the foodservice sector is Alberta’s third-largest source of jobs, employing 6 per cent of the province’s workforce.

Foodservice sales also have a strong spin-off effect for other local industries; for every dollar spent in a restaurant, $1.85 is spent elsewhere in this province. From farm to table, literally — restaurant businesses stimulate spending on everything from agriculture to interior design.

When restaurants struggle, the communities they serve struggle along with them.

Alberta’s next government has an opportunity to improve realities for restaurants

Restaurants Canada sent a total of 16 policy recommendations to Alberta’s four major political parties on Jan. 14 in the hopes that they would be incorporated into all their platforms in the lead up to the next provincial election. A complete listing of these recommendations can be found at restaurantrealities.ca.

Restaurants Canada hopes the government starts listening to our industry’s concerns and comes to the table with us and the rest of the small business community. It’s not us vs. them; when restaurant realities improve, Alberta’s economy improves for everyone.

If you have any questions or would like more information, you can get in touch with Mark von Schellwitz, Restaurants Canada Vice President, Western Canada, at mark@restaurantscanada.org or 1-800-387-5649 ext. 6500.

Kartikey Bhargava

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