Restaurant industry urges immediate action to save establishments (updated)

Restaurants Canada says the window to ensure restaurants survive the COVID-19 outbreak is closing

The restaurant industry says more help is needed to prevent devastating losses and permanent closures | Shutterstock

What happened: Restaurants Canada says immediate action is needed by all levels of government to prevent “devastating losses” and permanent closures.

Why it matters: There are more than 90,000 foodservice establishments across Canada that employ 1.2 million workers. By that figure, the industry accounts for more than 6% of the country’s workforce, according to Statistics Canada’s January labour market survey.

Restaurants Canada says the window to ensure restaurants survive the COVID-19 outbreak is closing.

The Toronto-based industry association is urging all levels of government to take more immediate action to prevent “devastating losses” and permanent closures.

President and CEO Shanna Munro said she commends the steps that have been taken, but that more help is needed to help businesses navigate a new reality with no end in sight.

“Given the devastating losses that most restaurants have experienced and are anticipating, they urgently need more immediate support to continue serving their communities during this crisis and beyond,” Munro stated in a release issued Friday.

There are more than 90,000 foodservice establishments across Canada that employ 1.2 million workers. By that figure, the industry accounts for more than 6% of the country’s workforce, according to Statistics Canada’s January labour market survey.

Suggestions put forward by Restaurants Canada include greater flexibility on tax relief, rent and loans and mortgages, which would require coordination with financial institutions and landlords.

The organization would also like to see more employer assistance to help prevent layoffs, along with more information around how workers can access new or existing benefits they may be entitled to.

The restaurant and foodservices industry in B.C. is made up of 13,000 businesses that employ some 180,000 workers.

Earlier this week, BC Restaurant and Foodservices Association president and CEO Ian Tostenson discussed how the industry has been impacted.

“We are in an absolute free-fall. I’ve never seen anything like this,” Tostenson said. “Business owners are crying. It’s just so sad.”

“What is now for the business owner: how do they pay their lease, how do they pay the utilities, how do they keep those buildings open? Because worst-case scenario is, we lose them, we’ve got a bunch of landlords with empty buildings and who's going to get back in the restaurant business? It’s remarkable,” he said.

A number of restaurants, both big and small, have closed shop temporarily this month. Donnelly Group, The Keg Steakhouse + Bar, Cactus Club Café and Earls Kitchen + Bar are among the chains that have closed their doors to patrons. 

The Keg alone employs 10,000 employees across the country. It has committed to minimizing the financial burden faced employees now out of work due to restaurant closures.

In B.C., businesses with primary liquor licences have been ordered to remain closed. As of Friday, restaurants across the province are restricted from offering dine-in service until further notice. The City of Vancouver has done the same.

hwoodin@biv.com

@hayleywoodin