Statement in response to changes announced to the federal wage and rent subsidy programs

Published October 21, 2021

Today the Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, announced that the federal government is replacing the current wage and rent subsidy programs with targeted support for restaurants and other uniquely hard-hit businesses.

Full details on this announcement can be found in the government’s official news release, and information on eligibility criteria and other details about the new targeted programs can be found in the Finance Department’s backgrounder document.

The fact that restaurants are being included in the new targeted approach to the rent and wage subsidy programs is a positive sign, reflecting how Restaurants Canada has been at the table with the federal government throughout the pandemic, ensuring that the needs of our severely impacted sector have been heard by key decision-makers.

Restaurants Canada will continue to work closely with the federal government to make sure that the eligibility requirements of these new programs reflect the realities of our industry. It’s critically important that businesses in desperate need of wage and rent support don’t lose access to these subsidies if they have been operating at significant revenue losses for months on end.

Restaurant operators are innovative and resourceful, but the COVID-19 crisis has stretched their resiliency to the limits. According to survey data from Restaurants Canada:

  • 8 out of 10 restaurants have been operating at a loss or barely scraping by with a profit margin of 2% or less throughout the entire pandemic.
  • Nearly half of all foodservice businesses have been consistently losing money ever since the first wave of lockdowns ended last year.

Eight out of 10 respondents to the latest Restaurants Canada survey said their establishments were still experiencing less traffic from July to September 2021 compared to before the pandemic. Most of these restaurant operators reported significantly lower guest counts:

  • More than half (52%) said their guest counts were more than 30% lower in Q3 2021 compared to Q3 2019.
  • Nearly 1 in 5 (18%) said their guest counts were more than 50% lower in Q3 2021 compared to Q3 2019.

This was the case even with all provinces permitting indoor as well as outdoor dining again by July, the appeal of warm summer weather, and many municipalities allowing restaurants to operate expanded patio areas.

With colder weather coming, the fate of Canada’s 90,000+ restaurants is still uncertain.

At least 10,000 establishments have already closed. The rest need government support to help them survive the fall and winter so they can continue feeding our recovery.

To learn what restaurants need to pull through the ongoing pandemic and continue reviving our communities, we encourage you to visit SupportRestaurants.ca where you can:

  • Watch a video featuring restaurateurs from across the country explaining why they need the federal wage and rent subsidies to help them survive until the spring.
  • Read a full list of government policy recommendations from Restaurants Canada.
Marlee Wasser

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