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Restaurants Canada Urges Toronto to Reconsider Changes to Permanent CaféTO


New fee and cost structure for popular restaurant patio program will cause additional administrative and cost burdens for struggling Toronto restaurants

A program that was originally a lifeline for restaurants throughout the course of the pandemic in Toronto, is now poised to cause further challenges to struggling restaurant operators in Toronto due to new measures proposed by the City. The City of Toronto’s popular CaféTO program is being made permanent, but will include new fees, administration, red tape, labour and infrastructure costs that will negatively impact local restaurants.

“Restaurants Canada is encouraged to see the CaféTO program modified to become a permanent resource for local restaurants to increase revenue during our sector’s high season while adding liveliness to the city’s neighborhoods,” said Kelly Higginson, COO of Restaurants Canada “However the program comes with newly proposed costs, red tape and administration challenges that have many of our restaurant members questioning whether they will be able to afford to participate in the program.”

Restaurants Canada was unfortunately not consulted during the early developmental stages of the CaféTO program’s proposed changes, thus failing to consider the foodservice sector’s current state as it works to rebuild post-pandemic.

“The unfortunate reality is that 50 per cent of Canadian restaurants are operating at a loss or just breaking even so now is not the time to increase their costs,” continued Higginson. “Toronto’s downtown core has still not recovered post-pandemic, as high vacancy rates in neighbouring buildings continue to have a significant impact on traffic to restaurants. Hundreds of restaurants have shuttered permanently in the past three years, devastating the industry and changing the character and vibrancy of many of Toronto’s neighbourhoods.”

With the thousands of dollars in new added costs per restaurant to participate in the program; building materials, permit and application fees, labour for build out and tear downs, and others, many restaurant operators are questioning the ongoing practicality of their participation in CaféTO.  Restaurant Canada members have communicated these changes will negatively impact their decision to participate in the program. This is consistent with the City’s own survey of restaurant operators in November 2022 that were asked how likely the re-introduction of fees would impact their decision to open a curb lane café. The results found 60 per cent indicated that it would likely impact their decision (City of Toronto, CaféTO 2023 and Beyond, 2023).  

Restaurants Canada will continue to advocate on behalf of the industry with the City of Toronto to express our members’ concerns and collaborate on an approach that works for all.

To learn more about the challenges restaurants in Canada are currently facing, visit