Foodservice sales fall to lowest level in more than a decade

Published May 27, 2020

Commercial foodservice sales in Canada plummeted by a record 36.6% in March 2020 compared to February 2020 (adjusted for seasonality) due to COVID-19 and the lockdown that began on March 15.

Overall, foodservice sales fell to nearly $4 billion in March, the lowest monthly sales since November 2009. This represents a record $2.3 billion decline in sales compared to February 2020.

On a year-over-year basis, drinking places were hardest hit as sales plummeted by a staggering 58.8% in March compared to March 2019. Sales at full-service restaurants tumbled by 49.4%, with steep declines across the country.

In contrast, quick-service restaurants fell by 22.9% as many locations stayed open for takeout and/or delivery.

Retail Food Trends in March

By way of comparison, consumers flocked to retail food stores to restock their fridges and pantries. As a result, year-over-year sales at supermarkets and grocery stores grew by 22.1% in March and specialty food stores (e.g. meat/fish markets, fruit/vegetable markets, bakeries) reported an 11.6% jump in sales. Beer, wine and liquor store sales increased by 10.4%.

Consumer Confidence Improves in May

Although the foodservice sales data from April will show an even larger decline when the results are released by Statistics Canada at the end of June, there are some encouraging signs for optimism. The Conference Board of Canada recently released its consumer confidence index, which rose slightly in May after tumbling to record lows in March and April. While nowhere near where it was compared to pre-COVID levels, the improvement in consumer confidence in May offers a subtle sign that the worst may be over. Let’s hope that’s the case.   

For more information on what to expect for the remainder of 2020, check out our latest Quarterly Forecast. Our latest Monthly Fast Facts for the March reference month is on Restaurants Canada’s member portal, which includes detailed foodservice sales data by province and segment. 

Restaurants Canada Digital

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