The last couple of months have been hard for small, local businesses as well as restaurants. From closures to opening just patios to operating at half capacity, restaurants have suffered huge losses and some of them had to shut down permanently, bringing about a big change in the food and beverage industry.
While we continued to take out from our favourite food-joints, it did not generate enough business for the small restaurants. Post lockdown, the restaurants with patios were allowed to open with social distancing measures, again forcing the ones with no such space to remain closed or operate at half capacity. Some of them did try to woo customers but summers meant more outdoor time, meaning restaurants with patios did fairly well in comparison to the ones with only indoor dining option.
Operating any restaurant with or without patio comes with additional costs and measures to maintain Covid-19 safety guidelines. With increased sanitization, hygiene and social distancing guidelines, not all businesses in the food industry could sustain, resulting in permanent closures. It was hard to see some of our favourite restaurants close their doors for lack of business and profits.
A survey by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce found that 29 per cent of businesses in the food service industry cannot operate with social distancing measures and 31 per cent of food service businesses say they can only operate with social distancing for 90 days. What does this mean? It means that 60 per cent of Canadian restaurants could fail within three months. Isn’t that shocking and heartbreaking?
According to Restaurants Canada, the food service industry lost 800,000 jobs when COVID-19 first hit Canada, and around 83 per cent of accommodation and food service businesses temporarily closed and laid off staff.
“It’s very worrisome,” CEO and President of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce Perrin Beatty said, adding that 1.2 million Canadians are employed in the restaurant industry with an annual payroll of $30 billion. He also said that in good times profit margins are only four to six per cent and with COVID-19, it’s nearly impossible for many restaurants to make money.
Summer of 2020 was like no other. Restaurants with patios were quick to customize their space and make dining with social distancing comfortable for cautious customers. Many restaurants reported full tables during summers and customers had to make reservations way ahead to enjoy the patio season. But with the fall season and cold weather fast approaching and the number of Covid cases also increasing across Canada, the businesses that did fairly well in summers are worried about their future.
The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy has helped many restaurateurs and has been extended until December, but the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program expired at the end of August.
Canada’s food service sector is an important part of the economy and typically employs 1.2 million people. Prior to the pandemic, this sector served 22 million meals a day across the country, according to industry data. If more and more restaurants close down, we will soon see recession, unemployment and a falling GDP.
We cannot deny that people connect, families spend time and friends enjoy while dining outside their homes. Restaurants offer a perfect way of meeting near and dear ones and have quality time together. A lot of students and other people work part-time at restaurants to earn extra money. These people have been hit too with layoffs and no more hiring.
What we need to do now is support our local restaurants and food joints to help them stay in the business. Whenever we dine or pick up food, we must think of our local restaurants and support them. Give them an extra tip to help them cover the losses. Also, the government must devise programs and strategies tailored to help restaurants get through the pandemic. We are all in this together. Let us help and support each other!
Written by Manali Arora