Saskatchewan has shed 25,000 food-service jobs since the coronavirus pandemic began around March 1, a survey by Restaurants Canada shows, and those jobs might not return if current conditions continue.
Saskatchewan’s $2.4 billion food-service industry represents three per cent of the province’s GDP and is the province’s third-largest private-sector employer. If conditions do not improve, Restaurants Canada estimates that Saskatchewan’s food-service sales will decrease by more than $500 million for the second quarter of this year, according to a news release.
Nationally, the organization estimates that 800,000 food-service jobs have been last due to the coronavirus.
With restaurants struggling to pay rent and other bills due in April, the national association surveyed businesses to shed light on the health of the industry. Responses collected from food-service operators across Canada revealed:
- Four out of five restaurants have laid off employees since March 1
- Seven out of 10 food-service operators will further cut back on staff hours or lay off more employees if conditions do not improve
- Nearly one out of 10 restaurants have already closed permanently and another 18 per cent will permanently close within a month if current conditions continue
“Not only was our industry among the first to feel the impacts of COVID-19, we’ve been one of the hardest hit so far, with nearly two-thirds of our workforce now lost,” Shanna Munro, Restaurants Canada president and CEO. “In our 75 years of existence as Canada’s national food-service association, these are by far the worst numbers we have ever seen.”
Restaurants Canada has worked closely with government and industry stakeholders since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, contributing to efforts to safeguard public health and assure business continuity as much as possible, the news release continued.
“While our members appreciate the government relief measures announced so far, the reality is a growing portion of Saskatchewan’s restaurateurs are considering permanent closure as they cannot pay their operating costs with no income,” said Mark von Schellwitz, Restaurants Canada vice-president, Western Canada.
“Urgent additional relief is required to help these businesses survive or there will be fewer jobs for the thousands of temporarily laid off restaurant employees to return to once social distancing measures are lifted.”
Restaurants Canada continues to be at the table, working with all levels of government to strengthen actions already taken in several areas to provide food-service businesses with more immediate protection and relief, as well as help to re-open and re-hire:
- Rent relief: Flexible arrangements are needed from landlords to allow for payment-free periods. Food-service operators are looking for a co-ordinated effort led by government, coupled with no-eviction orders to relieve pressure. An injunction on evictions would allow time for governments to bring stakeholders to the table to develop immediate and long-term solutions that will work for all parties involved.
- Access to working capital: With little-to-no sales revenue coming in for most food-service businesses, many have already depleted their reserve funds, or soon will. Existing measures may need to be expanded and new solutions continue to be welcomed to ensure restaurants will have enough working capital to re-open their doors once physical distancing rules are lifted.
- Labour: An expansion of the qualifying conditions and period for accessing the 75 per cent wage subsidy would help restaurants not only keep workers on the payroll but allow those already laid off to be rehired.
Restaurants Canada conducted its survey between March 25 and 29 and received 655 completed surveys from food-service operators across Canada, representing 13,300 locations. Canada’s commercial food-service industry is composed of 97,500 establishments, including full-service restaurants, quick-service restaurants, caterers and drinking places.