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800,000 restaurant jobs lost in Canada in March amid COVID-19: survey

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A survey by a Canadian not-for-profit says that over 300,000 restaurant jobs have been lost in Ontario as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Restaurants Canada estimates that 800,000 jobs have been lost in the sector nationwide.

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The company, which represents restaurants nationwide, said nearly one in 10 restaurants in Canada have already closed and nearly one in five expect to close if conditions don’t get better in a month.

The company’s CEO and President, Shanna Munro, said the numbers are the worst she’s seen since Restaurants Canada was founded 75 years ago.

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“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,” said Munro.

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In Alberta, 95,000 jobs have been lost since March 1, according to Restaurants Canada vice president for Western Canada, Mark Von Schellwitz .

“We’re the third largest private sector employer and one of the biggest economic drivers in the province as well and it’s not going to be easy in Alberta’s economy to lose that amount of sales and the personal taxes that generates as well, so it’s a pretty significant hit,” he said.

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“That’s already a pretty significant chunk of businesses that will not be able to reopen, Then we have another 18 per cent of our members that are saying that unless they get some sort of assistance in the next month, they’ll have to close permanently as well. It’s a pretty dire situation.”

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What worries his members is the large number that once social distancing becomes a thing of the past, and dine-in service can resume, is the amount of debt they’ll have to take on to restore cash flow.

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“Given the thin margins in the industry, that would take a long time to pay that money back. So some of our members are just saying, ‘I can’t afford to do that.’ Either close or close later because of the huge amount of additional debt that will just never be able to be paid back,” he said.

“We’ve got a lot of members now scrambling to figure out how they’re going to pay their lease, never mind all of the other utilities and other bills that they have to pay as well with no income.

“If you have up to a third of the restaurants that are closed, the 95,000 employees that have been laid off thus far are not going to have jobs to come back to.”

Canada’s $93 billion foodservice industry represents 4 per cent of the country’s GDP. Restaurants Canada estimates that if conditions don’t improve, foodservice sales will be down nearly $20 billion for the second quarter of 2020.

— with Global News files