The summer months are upon us, but there’s little time for any of us to ease into a slower pace. I am proud of the sense of urgency and initiative at the Association as we continue to press the federal government for an extension on the CEBA loan repayment deadline, sharing recent data that highlights the profitability challenges our industry continues to face, which are clearly evidenced by the staggering rise in bankruptcies.
The recent Toronto Sun article proclaiming that foodservice sales have returned to pre-pandemic levels, without acknowledging the bottom line—that 51% of operators are barely breaking even or operating at a loss compared to 12% pre-pandemic is frankly irresponsible. Our team has been very active in the media, advocating and addressing this misinformation. As a $100 billion industry and the fourth-largest private employer in the country, it is vital that governments and consumers understand the realities facing the foodservice sector today and the impact this has on our economy and our communities. I encourage all our members to engage with the campaign and reach out to Minister Freeland’s office to share your voice and help spread the word.
Forest fires raging in many parts of the country have further intensified challenges for operators and slowed the start of the crucial domestic tourism season. The recent announcement by the Nova Scotia provincial government of grants for businesses affected by evacuation orders has brought some relief, but we will continue to monitor the situation as it evolves across the country.
Time spent at a member engagement event in Montreal gave us an opportunity to connect with Québec industry leaders from all areas of the food sector and continue to share ideas and internalize the ongoing challenges our industry faces today. The event also reminded us that welcoming is the heart of hospitality. June is National Indigenous History Month, and June 21st is National Indigenous Peoples Day. The growth of Indigenous culinary and food enterprise over the past decade has been wonderful to see, but this group is still underrepresented in the foodservice landscape. As fellow foodies, I encourage you to visit local Indigenous restaurants in your region and on your travels to explore and support our original national cuisine.
June is also PRIDE Month. Beyond the special events and menus, it’s an important time for all of us to reflect on just how much the 2SLGBTQI+ community brings to our communities, our local economies, our teams and the restaurant and hospitality sector as a whole. Every day. We encourage you to connect with and celebrate all communities and team members year-round to help build a truly connected, diverse and resilient industry.
Last but by no means least, I am thrilled to welcome new Restaurants Canada Affinity Partner, Jones DesLauriers Blevins Insurance Group Inc. The JDB Group will help make employee group benefits and recruitment and retention services accessible to members to help address the labour shortfall along with offering vital enhanced supports for their clients, everything from HR training and inquiries to contract questions and health and wellness programs. You can find out more about The JDB Group and other Affinity Partner programs at restaurantscanada.org.
CEBA Advocacy Update
The advocacy push to relieve the CEBA loan repayment pressure on the restaurant sector continues, as we await word from the federal government on Restaurants Canada’s urgent request to extend the December 31st deadline.
Restaurants Canada’s consumer awareness and engagement campaign, #ontheirplate, is in market and we are encouraged by the volume of national media coverage in support of the sector. People are waking up to the reality that even though by some evaluations, restaurant sales volumes are moving back to pre-pandemic levels, profits are not.
The CEBA loan repayment extension and industry advocacy remain Restaurants Canada’s highest priority. Download the #ontheirplate member toolkit here and share your voice.
Federal Government Announces Lower Credit Card Transaction Fees for Small Businesses
After months of advocacy and collaboration with the federal government, Restaurants Canada’s Vice-President, Federal and Quebec, Olivier Bourbeau, is pleased to see that Chrystia Freeland, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finances, alongside Mary Ng, Minister of International Trade, Export Promotion, Small Business and Economic Development, have supported advocacy efforts for lower credit card transaction fees for small businesses.
Per the details of the official announcement, Visa and Mastercard have agreed to lower fees and provide free access to online fraud and cybersecurity resources for small businesses.
Sector Advocacy in Manitoba
VP of Prairies and the North, Jennifer Henshaw had a productive meeting with Hon. Jeff Wharton, Manitoba’s Minister of Economic Development, Investment and Trade last week to highlight the need for additional minimum wage transitional support for some of our smallest operators and discussed the path forward for the implementation of wholesale liquor pricing in Manitoba.
Last week, Restaurants Canada also participated in Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Project Explorer stakeholder consultation, which is “working towards identifying holistic operational and framework challenges, opportunities, and improvements to better deliver liquor products and services to Manitobans.” Jenn will also be sitting down with Wab Kinew, Leader of the Official Opposition in Manitoba as well as a number of opposition MLAs in key critic roles later this month to discuss RC’s pre-election policy priorities.
Ontario Minimum Wage Increase
Effective October 1, 2023, the minimum wage in Ontario will increase to $16.55/hour—the highest in the country. While Restaurants Canada appreciates the leadership shown by the province in improving the lives of Ontario workers and local economies, the impact on the restaurant sector will be challenging, particularly amidst the many other cost increases, labour scarcity and loan repayments many operators are facing.
Last week, Restaurants Canada met with Monte McNaughton, Ontario Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development, to present the sector’s concerns about the increase and the need for timely and right-sized offsets to support the transition and training required.
Digital Tip Disbursement Apps Under Review in Ontario
A spokesperson from the Ontario Ministry of Labour has informed Corey Mintz in a special opinion piece in The Globe and Mail they are reviewing employee concerns that digital tip disbursement apps like Today or Tipstoday may contravene the provincial Employee Standards Act.
Complaints about the app include fund access fees drawn from user accounts and inadequate security features that may expose users to fraud and hacking. While the Ministry acknowledged they are looking into these complaints, the review currently does not target any one technology provider.
Restaurants Canada continues to follow this story as the industry seeks effective and compliant solutions to tipping in the cashless age.
Atlantic Canada Wholesale Liquor Pricing Update
Restaurants Canada continues to work on a position paper and the development of a wholesale liquor pricing campaign for all Atlantic Canadian provinces. The goal of the Atlantic campaign is to follow the lead of BC and Alberta and move toward wholesale liquor pricing for our industry with a launch target of September 2023.
Strengthening Strategic Sector Partnerships in the Atlantic
Restaurants Canada continues to work in partnership with our Atlantic Canadian industry associations. Recently, Atlantic VP, Richard Alexander was appointed by the Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia (RANS) board to chair their government affairs committee. This appointment will strengthen our industry’s lobby in Nova Scotia on many issues including wholesale liquor pricing and municipal issues including recent patio concerns in Halifax.
Grants Now Available for Nova Scotia Wildfire Business Evacuees
As wildfires in Nova Scotia continue to wreak havoc, restaurants in evacuation zones have had to close, affecting operators and their employees. Restaurants Canada applauds Premier Houston for announcing a financial support program in the form of a $2,500 grant for businesses located in these mandatory evacuation zones. To apply for the grant follow this link.
With optimism and gratitude,