Statistics Canada and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce released data showing that more than half of all restaurants could be forced out of business by the end of 2020, and restaurants in Saskatchewan are not immune.
“It’s just a stark reality that the restaurant industry is in grave, grave trouble,” said Jim Bence, president and CEO of the Saskatchewan Hotel and Hospitality Association (SHHA).
Although Bence predicts Saskatchewan will see fewer restaurants close their doors, based on recent surveys, he said margins are still extremely thin for many.
“They’re razor thin and with these restrictions still in place, social distancing, it has made it in some cases almost impossible for operations to continue,” Bence said.
The Stats Canada survey found that 29 per cent of accommodation and food services businesses cannot operate at all, due to social distancing requirements.
It also found that another 31 per cent will only be able to remain operational for up to 90 days with the current conditions.
That means Canada could see six out of 10 restaurants go out of business by November.
“This is one of my greatest fears,” Bence said. “In the tourism world seven out of 10 kids get their very first job in our industry… eight out of 10 First Nation’s kids get their first jobs.”
“I want to make sure we have a vibrant industry, one that survives, that can employ our youth.”
On Thursday, staff at Twenty Ten City Eatery in Regina’s downtown were cleaning up after what would normally have been a busy lunch hour.
But with the pandemic, owner Steven Kosabek said he’s lucky to get three or four tables through the door.
“We’re in a fight for our lives here,” Kosabek said.
“We have to get consumer confidence back. People still aren’t coming out to restaurants- they’re scared to come out.”
It’s a sentiment echoed by Bence who said many restaurants continue to rely on take out and delivery, as well as patio seating.
“In Saskatchewan, we’ve done an exceptional job of flattening the curve and I’m hoping that people will get more confidence and get back out there,” Bence said.
Even larger chains such as Boston Pizza are feeling the pressure. Jim Werschler owns 16 locations across the province and said with the current restrictions, it’s limiting it’s in-house capacities to between 40 and 50 per cent.
Werschler adds that while sales hover around 70 per cent compared to last year, it’s again largely due to take out and delivery, along with outdoor patios.
“The guests have been very good,” Werschler said. “We’ve been getting a lot of support from them on the take out and delivery platforms.”
“Some of our locations are being kept a float by government programs and as those dry up and as the weather changes those volumes will go down.”
It’s because of this Werschler predicts some of his locations will close within the next year. A fear echoed throughout the industry as restaurants large and small struggle to keep food on the table.
As a result, the Chamber of Commerce and more than 60 restaurant brands, including Boston Pizza, launched the Our Restaurants Campaign.
It’s calling on both the government and the public to come together to support their local restaurants.