According to StatCan’s monthly survey of industry receipts, unadjusted sales for the “Food Services and Drinking Places” sector in Canada were down 27.3 per cent through the first three quarters of 2020 over the same time period in 2019.
In Saskatchewan, unadjusted industry receipts totaled $123,284,000 in November 2020, down from $159,291,000 the year before.
With many jurisdictions restricting service to take-out only, full-service restaurants saw their sales decline 35.6 per cent over that period. Limited-service restaurants saw sales decline by 14.2 per cent.
In a mid-December news release, Restaurants Canada said that 10,000 Canadian restaurants had already closed since March of last year, and that “almost 50 per cent expect to permanently close their establishment if conditions don’t improve.”
The release was part of the industry association’s “Picture life without restaurants” campaign which encouraged Canadians to support local eateries.
One restaurateur in Regina said owners and operators have had to be extra motivated to weather the storm.
The Rotisserie buffet owner said he and his team have been constantly updating menu options and are planning on opening a patio for the first time this summer in efforts to attract more customers. He already had to revamp his business model when serve-yourself buffets were banned near the start of the pandemic.
“You just don’t see the traffic that you used to see. You have to try to get more people to come out. It’s the only way we’re going to get through this,” he said.
With no certain end date for the current restrictions on restaurants, which in late November were elevated to limit tables to a maximum of four people each, Linder said he’s set his hopes on widespread vaccination as the way out of the struggles the industry has been facing.
“I don’t think there are going to be too many changes to the occupancy rules by the summertime,” Linder said. “The nine-foot (between tables without barriers) rule really hindered us. It cut our capacity down to about 30 per cent. Would it be nice to have an extra four or five tables? Absolutely. But if the fear is still there it’s not worth it.”
He says that if that can happen by the end of September, as has been promised by the federal government, his business should survive.
“If cases are high we’re very slow inside. We just want to see people come out and not be afraid to come out — that’s the key.”