Foodies looking to support the restaurant industry through the pandemic have a specific opportunity to do so through an initiative called Our Restaurants. The national campaign aims to empower Canadians to advocate for the restaurant industry at the local, provincial and federal levels.
Our Restaurants is run under the auspices of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, who have been vocal supporters of the industry’s survival. The Our Restaurants website states ‘just as our restaurants have always been there for important moments in our lives, now we need to be here for them.’
According to Restaurants Canada, the industry directly created one out of every 15 jobs pre-COVID, contributing $31 billion to Canada’s GDP each year. When the pandemic hit, restaurants were among the first and most impacted by the ensuing lockdown.
A Canadian Survey on Business Conditions, prepared by Statistics Canada with support from the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, reported that 89% of businesses in the food service industry saw a decline in demand, with more than 50% reporting significant disruptions to their supply chains. Even after reopening, 80% have experienced a decline in consumption due to public fear or caution. Over 42% of restaurants indicated a revenue decline of more than 50% in the first quarter of 2020 compared the same time in 2019.
The industry lost 800,000 jobs due to the lockdown, and, as of August, has recovered 75% of those jobs. Though that recovery seems promising, forecasts are that the industry will be among the last to fully recover, with an estimated timeline of a year to 18 months. That’s because restaurant capacity is severely limited and staff difficult to come by.
The Our Restaurants website exhorts Canadians to not only support their local eateries by ordering out or visiting when safe, but to also lend their voice to advocacy campaigns for government support.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce, provincial Chambers of Commerce, Restaurants Canada and other groups are calling for policy changes that include creating incentives for Canadians to return to work, eliminating the automatic annual federal excise tax increase on beer, wine, and spirits, implementing and monitoring a commercial eviction moratorium and making permanent COVID-related licencing changes to allow more restaurants to offer alcohol sales (including for take-out).
Jarred Cohen, Policy Advisor at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, says while the restaurant industry has suffered major loss, “they have demonstrated resilience and industriousness in the face of severe adversity. For instance, businesses have developed innovative solutions to maximize their revenues, such as using QR codes instead of physical menus to facilitate orders and contactless payment. Speaking from my own personal experience, I have been amazed at how many platforms I have used to order food from a restaurant.”
Cohen says “ultimately, as government programs meet their expiry dates, consumer confidence will be the key to bringing revenues back to somewhat normal levels. This industry operates on thin margins in the best of times and is suffering in the worst of them. Without your patronage, food service businesses will be forced to fold. The ‘Our Restaurants’ campaign is here to avoid just that.”