The cruelest irony regarding a pandemic that spreads through social contact is that it reduces our interactions at a time when we need them most. Logically businesses based on people getting together, like those of us in foodservice, have been one of the hardest hit. There were 1.2 million Canadians employed in foodservice (making it the nations 4th largest employer according to Restaurants Canada) prior to the pandemic. Of those, 800,000 are still unemployed. Todd Barclay, President and CEO of Restaurants Canada, stated in a letter to the Prime Minister that half of all restaurant operators are currently operating at a loss and don’t anticipate operating at a profit for at least another year.

Compound these grim statistics with the reality that we are now entering into the 2nd phase of the COVID19 wave Canadians have been warned of, and things start to seem daunting.

So, what can operators, legislators, and patrons like you and I do to ensure that when this is all over and done with, we have a place in our neighbourhood we can enjoy with friends and family?

Operators: Some restaurants have done an excellent job pivoting their focus and increasing or introducing options to their takeaway business. Knowing that consumers still crave restaurant quality food in the comfort of their homes, they have curtailed their offerings to make it easy to assemble or re-therm in residential kitchens. Everything from lasagna to deconstructed ramen, to professionally made cocktails and wine pairings have spiked over the last six months.

Legislators: In a recent National Post article, David Clement, had several interesting ideas on what policy makers can do to help both the operator and the patron.

  • Follow the UK government’s “Eat out to help out” campaign where they provided a 50 per cent discount, to a limit of £10 per diner, on food and soft drinks every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday for restaurant-goers who ate in.
  • Canadian provinces should remove minimum pricing on alcoholic beverages and allow for restaurants to order directly from producers – Removing the liquor control board as the middleman would help combat inflated prices and drastically reduce costs for restaurants.
  • Repeal their open-container laws and allow for outdoor alcohol consumption, something that is commonplace all over Europe.
  • For food, the elimination of supply management would be a major long-term help to both restaurants and consumers. The quota and tariff system that restricts the market for chicken, dairy, eggs and turkey artificially inflates restaurants’ costs and get passed along to consumers via higher prices.

Patrons: Appreciating that when you purchase from a foodservice establishment you are not just feeding your family. Behind every plate stands a long line of employees from kitchen staff, food producers, logistics, equipment dealers, wholesalers, agent reps, technicians, consultants and designers. During Phase 1, Canada Takeout Day was promoted heavily encouraging patrons to order food-to-go on Wednesdays. Is it time to call for a renewed commitment? It’s amazing to think that ordering out or safely dining in could have such an impact on your community.

Like any challenge, we can manage this by supporting one another.