When the pandemic started, our restaurants were among the first and hardest hit. Despite their own challenges, they worked hard to support communities, provide for those in need, and find new and innovative ways to safely serve customers. But despite this, many of our restaurants aren’t sure if they’ll be able to keep going – the numbers just don’t work when so many tables are empty and new costs are so high. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected virtually every industry in Canada, but likely none has endured an impact as brutal as hospitality. The food service industry in Canada typically employs 1.2 million Canadians and generates approximately $93 billion in gross revenue. According to Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey data, the industry remains 260,000 jobs below normal for full service restaurants alone – far worse than other sectors of the Canadian economy.

Restaurants Canada data shows that by March 2020, 10% of all Canadian restaurants had closed permanently — with thousands more closing their doors since then – and the findings suggest a further 50% expect to operate at an unsustainable loss for at least a year. And, what’s worse, according to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s analysis of data collected in Statistics Canada’s Canadian Survey on Business Conditions, 60% of restaurants in Canada could be forced to close by November.

On Wednesday, the minority Liberal government will outline its priorities in the fall Throne Speech. With Canadians still facing an uncertain future as COVID numbers surge, pressure from all opposition parties on specific initiatives, and provincial premiers looking for significant increases in health care funding, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau faces a daunting challenge.

“The situation is dire for the industry. There is a trifecta of bad news: patios are closing, there is no prospect of office or holiday parties coming in, and government programs are not designed for the unique situation facing restaurants,” says Hon. Perrin Beatty, President and CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. “The Throne Speech is an opportunity for the federal government to indicate they will help prevent the failure of this industry.”

The Chamber network and Restaurants Canada have collaborated to outline measures that we assert will help prevent the failure of an entire industry. On Wednesday, we will be listening for our three specific asks of federal government in the Throne Speech:

  1. Confirmation that the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) will be continued into 2021 and that its scope will reflect a long-term recovery;
  2. Commitment to introduce a new, improved and long-term commercial rent relief program (update to CECRA) that addresses the well-documented difficulties and sector-specific needs; and,
  3. A statement that our leaders will start encouraging Canadians to safely visit our restaurants.

Last week, the Save Hospitality CA initiative joined the Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s Our Restaurants campaign, alongside 1,200 restaurants, food and beverage locations, and industry suppliers. We’re asking all Canadians to support their local restaurants by going out for a meal, and we’re inviting you to join us in advocating with all levels of government to implement policies that reflect the long-term hardship and recovery this industry is facing.