The key to feeding Canada’s economic recovery lies in those hardest hit by the pandemic

Published March 17, 2021

TORONTO, Mar. 17, 2021 — The foodservice sector is positioned to help the Canadian economy rapidly get on its feet. Before the pandemic struck, our industry comprised over 98,000 establishments from coast to coast to coast, contributing 4 per cent to the country’s GDP and serving about 22 million customers every day.

However, over the past 365 days, over 10,000 restaurants have closed, and there are still more than 319,000 fewer jobs in the Canadian foodservice sector than there were in February 2020 – no other sector is still experiencing such a shortfall. 

It is because restaurants were hit first and hit hardest that we are uniquely situated to serve as a fiscal anchor to guide Canada’s economic recovery. It is the best way to bring back half a million jobs for women, visible minorities, new Canadians and ensures that our youth still have access to invaluable first job experiences.

  • Women make up 58 per cent of the restaurant workforce but accounted for six out of every 10 lost jobs
  • 31 per cent of restaurant owners, operators and staff belong to a visible minority, 50 per cent of Canadian restaurants are run by new Canadians, both groups who may have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic
  • We are the #1 source of first jobs for young Canadians, providing a launch pad for meaningful and prosperous careers yet accounted for one out of every two jobs lost 

“It is vital that we are able to recover these lost jobs,” says Todd Barclay, President and CEO of Restaurants Canada. “While all other industries have recovered about 90 per cent or more of their pandemic job losses, at least 25 per cent of the foodservice workforce has still not returned to work in the restaurant sector.”

While some locations were allowed to open under the essential service provision, most restaurants were forced to close and lay off many of their staff or adapt and adjust to revolving lockdowns and capacity regulations put forth by provincial governments. 

“For those that could remain open to serve the public safely, it has not come cheap in the past year,” continues Barclay. “On top of rent, food costs, and credit card fees, restaurants have had to invest in takeout packaging, building patios and PPE, all while seeing revenue opportunities slashed due to capacity restrictions across the country.”

To be able to keep operating, despite revolving restrictions and inconsistent guidelines, Canadian restaurants have invested more than $750 million on staffing, training, sanitizer stations, masks and gloves, air purification systems, and other protective equipment, to keep their staff and customers safe. 

According to the latest Restaurants Canada survey conducted in February 2021, eight out of 10 restaurants are either losing money or barely scraping by, and could take a year to return to profitability, and 67 per cent of survey respondents said they are continuing to operate at a loss.

“Our sector has been hit hard, but restaurant operators are resourceful and resilient, and government efforts to help them thrive can go a long way,” says Barclay. “From tourism grants to tax credits, we want to encourage the government to think outside the box to encourage Canadians to spend more money in the economy, which will translate into additional government revenue through provincial taxes, income tax, and job creation in support of our collective economic recovery.”

According to the Bank of Canada, if vaccinations roll out quickly, they estimate an additional $4 billion quarterly could be pumped into the economy at the end of 2021 and early 2022 after broad immunity is achieved which could benefit the hardest-hit workers and businesses through the pandemic including restaurants. 

“If we want to build back a stronger, more resilient Canada that continues to reflect our country’s incredible diversity,” continues Barclay, “our industry is the best place to start because literally and figuratively, restaurants are key to feeding the recovery.”

About Restaurants Canada
Restaurants Canada is a national, not-for-profit association advancing the potential of Canada’s diverse and dynamic foodservice industry through member programs, research, advocacy, resources and events. Before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada’s foodservice sector was a $93 billion industry, directly employing 1.2 million people, providing Canada’s number one source of first jobs and serving 22 million customers across the country every day. The industry has since lost hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions in sales due to the impacts of COVID-19.


For more information, contact:
Roberto Sarjoo
Director, Marketing and Communications
Restaurants Canada
C: 416-389-7941

Restaurants Canada Digital

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