restaurants in canada

Here's the current state of the restaurant industry in Canada and it doesn't look good

Canada's restaurant industry has taken a metaphorical punch to the gut throughout the pandemic, with most restaurants shutting down operations in mid-March for more than eight weeks.

Those two months cost restaurants dearly.

In April, a survey from Restaurants Canada found that a staggering 50 per cent of independent restaurants took such a big financial hit that they wouldn't survive the next three months without rent relief.

Many restaurants in Canada managed to stay afloat during the pandemic by operating on a take-out or delivery model, but some say popular delivery apps are actually making things worse.

Uber Eats, for example, charges a restaurant in Canada 30 per cent commission, which means that a restaurant only makes about $10.50 on every $15 burger that's delivered.

Deduct the cost of ingredients and labour on top of that, and restaurants aren't making very much at all.

Thankfully, most restaurants in Canada have now been given the green light to reopen for dine-in service after the lockdown, albeit with several costly safety measures in place.

Almost all provinces, with the exception of Alberta, are asking restaurants to operate at 50 per cent capacity, limiting the amount of customers and incoming revenue.

Restaurants are tasked with purchasing masks, Plexiglass barriers, signage, hand sanitizer and more — and that's on top of paying for food, rent and staff wages.

And while these safety measures are certainly necessary, they also eat into a restaurant's funds; the costs are so hefty that a recent survey by Restaurants Canada revealed six out of ten restaurants are still operating at a loss.

"Time is running out," Shanna Munro, Restaurants Canada President, said in the press release. "Most restaurants have been operating at a loss and accumulating debt for three months already. If they don't get the help they need to return to positive cash flow, many won't be able to last much longer."

And even if restaurants do reopen, there's no guarantee that diners will be lining up outside to get their hands on a burger; with many Canadians worried about their health, restaurant owners have the difficult task of enticing customers to dine out once more.

And on top of that, the dining experience that restaurants will offer won't be the same.

Menu options will be fewer. Table service will inevitably be slower. Servers will be wearing masks. And for some Canadians, that's all the incentive they need to stay home and cook in their own kitchens instead.

In fact, a recent survey from Angus Reid suggests that more than half (52 per cent) of Canadians will wait to enjoy a meal out — and Sylvain Charlebois, the lead author of the report, said diners are experiencing inner turmoil.

"Canadians are split," Charlebois said in Retail Insider. "They're not sure what they're going to do. Some are eager of course. About one Canadian in five are eager to go out as soon as possible but there is a majority of Canadians who are unsure."

"They're not sure if going to the restaurant is a good idea and frankly I would say that after three months of hearing about COVID, and only about COVID, I think people are just kind of mesmerized a little bit."

That hesitation could cost restaurants thousands of dollars.

Of course, there are unique perks to dining out. For many Canadians, eating at restaurants is about more than just ordering a pizza. It's a chance to catch up with friends and family or celebrate a birthday.

"The restaurant experience is an experience. It's not just about eating food," said Howard Ramos, Professor of Sociology at Dalhousie University in Retail Insider.

"It's really about social and cultural enjoyment, and quality time with people that you care about. What people say they miss the most in terms of restaurants was the social occasion."

Canadians can never fully replicate the restaurant experience in their own kitchen, which is reason to believe that Canada's restaurant industry will eventually recover.

So even though the restaurant industry in Canada is struggling right now, industry experts are cautiously optimistic that it will rebound in the future.

After all, most Canadians don't have the technical skills to make stuffed eggs bearnaise at home — and even if they can, it always tastes better when someone else cooks it.

Lead photo by

Fareen Karim


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