Restaurants in Manitoba will soon be able to sell alcohol through takeout and delivery service, thanks to new legislation introduced on Dec. 3.
A critical step forward for foodservice
This was a key ask in the latest Raise the Bar report from Restaurants Canada, which was released in September. Produced every two years, the report takes a look at liquor policies impacting foodservice and hospitality businesses from coast to coast and gives each province a grade, as well as recommendations for improvement.
The 2019 Raise the Bar report revealed a considerable thirst for selling alcohol through takeout and delivery: Seven out of 10 licensed foodservice businesses told Restaurants Canada that they would benefit from being able to sell alcohol to their patrons to enjoy off-site.
With on-premise sales growth flattening out for restaurants in recent years, the business case for restaurants to sell alcohol through takeout and delivery is becoming more clear.
On-premise dining still accounts for the majority of restaurant sales nationwide, representing a little over half of overall revenues in 2018. But looking specifically at the 2018 sales stats for full-service restaurants, where customers traditionally would go to enjoy a meal at a table:
- delivery sales grew by 54 per cent;
- takeout sales grew by 18 per cent; and
- dine-in sales still represented 79 per cent of their total sales, but there was no growth from the year before.
Untapped potential: The case for leveling the playing field
While liquor retail opportunities have been expanding across the country, licensed foodservice establishments have been largely shut out from being able to sell beverage alcohol products for off-site consumption, either through takeout or delivery.
A few jurisdictions currently allow bars and restaurants to sell their patrons alcohol to enjoy off-site, with some limitations: for instance, Prince Edward Island lets licensed establishments sell locally produced beverage alcohol products for off-premise consumption; some establishments in Alberta and B.C. can sell their patrons a limited amount of beer and wine to take home; and legislation in Quebec allows restaurants to sell either beer or wine through both takeout and delivery.
The legislative reforms proposed in Manitoba will create the most all-encompassing rules yet, allowing licensed foodservice establishments to sell beer, wine, cider and coolers for off-site consumption.
Restaurants Canada has been advocating for rules like these for years — especially since ordering liquor through third-party delivery services, like Skip the Dishes and Foodora, has been permitted in a number of provinces.
At the same time, policies originally intended to give market access to small liquor producers have increasingly been encroaching on the restaurant sector: in many jurisdictions, consumers can enjoy a meal at a winery, craft brewery or distillery and then purchase a beverage alcohol product to go, while foodservice establishments can’t provide the same options to their patrons.
Allowing restaurants to sell alcohol through takeout and delivery would not only level the playing field for foodservice businesses, but also help craft products find larger markets. For example, if bars and restaurants were permitted to fill and sell growlers from their existing tap systems, this would benefit small, local brewers who might not have enough capital for bottling equipment.
New liquor products are often first encountered in a bar or restaurant setting at the recommendation of a professionally trained server. Why should restaurateurs who are trained and trusted to serve alcoholic beverages within their establishments be restricted from selling their customers those same products to enjoy at home?
Restaurants Canada looks forward to meeting with policymakers from other provinces interested in following Manitoba’s lead.
If you have any questions or would like more information, you can get in touch with any of the following members of the Restaurants Canada team:
- David Lefebvre, Restaurants Canada Vice President, Federal and Quebec, at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Luc Erjavec, Restaurants Canada Vice President, Atlantic Canada, at email@example.com
- James Rilett, Restaurants Canada Vice President, Central Canada, at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Mark von Schellwitz, Restaurants Canada Vice President, Western Canada, at email@example.com