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The Ongoing Recovery of our Restaurants and Food Service Industry Across Canada

July 27, 2020

The Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau
Prime Minister of Canada

Hon. Scott Moe
Premier of Saskatchewan

His Worship
Mayor Charlie Clark, City of Saskatoon

 

Dear Rt. Hon Justin Trudeau, Hon Scott Moe and His Worship Mayor Charlie Clark,

RE: The Ongoing Recovery of our Restaurants and Food Service Industry Across Canada

 

Our restaurants are cornerstones of communities of all sizes across Canada, Saskatchewan and Saskatoon. They are meeting places for business and pleasure; they are where we gather to celebrate, as well as gather to mourn a loss. Canadians are connected deeply to “their” local pub, or “their” late-night takeout spot. Our local restaurants are where many enthusiastically began their work experience as part time employees (for many an important opportunity to support academic goals). They may have enjoyed a first date, or met with a friend. Restaurants are part of our personal history, expression and culture.

 

Pre-COVID, our restaurants were significant economic generators and contributors creating one out of every 15 jobs (1.2 million Canadians), serving 22 million meals per day to Canadians, operating close to 100,000 establishments, and contributing $30 billion through direct wages and benefits to Canadians. Furthermore, this industry has contributed $31 billion annually to Canada’s GDP.

 

The Greater Saskatoon Chamber of Commerce recognizes the food service and restaurant industry as a vital part of our region’s economy. Saskatchewan’s $2.3 billion restaurant industry is Saskatchewan’s fourth largest employer, engaging more than 36,425 employees in communities across the province. As an industry first and hardest hit by COVID-19, it now needs our concerted support to maintain solvency through recovery.

 

Notwithstanding 800,000 lost jobs, 25,000 of which are in our province of Saskatchewan, the food services industry has courageously stepped up to serve their customers in our communities, bringing Canadians together around meal tables – pivoting in new and innovative ways. However, despite their best intentions and valiant efforts, the food services industry will be among the last to resume normal operations – a timescale stretching into at least the next 12-18 months.

 

Recognized and appreciated are all levels of government working together to assist Canadians through this crisis. Many businesses are now reopening within a much-altered operating environment, and adjusting to a new reality. For the food service industry, however, the picture is bleak and threatening.

 

Food service establishments operate on slim margins, even when tables are full. High fixed costs, seasonal variations in demand, an environment of high liquidity, and perishable inventory, the food service industry is one where consistent demand is a critical success factor, and astute business management essential. COVID-19 pandemic has significantly challenged the environment in which the restaurant industry operates, creating a perfect storm: reducing demand and increasing costs due to supply chain disruption, critical health and safety standards and limiting staff return have created undue pressure, unsustainable for most.. Already slim margins for most have been eliminated. Current government programs are not equipped for the timescale of this ongoing reality for this industry. We implore all levels of government toward urgent action to assist our restaurants during this extraordinary time. Actions recommended include:

 

Federal

Create incentives for Canadians to return to work by implementing the proposed improvements to the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS).

Eliminate the automatic annual federal excise tax increase on beer, wine, and spirits.

Encourage Canadians to safely return to pre-COVID activities while adhering to recommended health and safety protocols, as stated by the Chief Medical Officer.

 

Joint Federal-Provincial/Territorial

Extend the CECRA program, remove parent company revenue eligibility cap (removing the cap would prevent franchisees from falling through the cracks), and explore a means to substantially increase program subscription.

 

Provincial

Expand liquor licensing, or make permanent COVID-related licensing changes, to allow more restaurants to offer alcohol sales (including for take-out).

 

Municipal

Reduction or deferral of property taxes, patio fees, utility fees, and other fees as relevant.

Ease regulatory burdens, which assist the industry without impacting government budgets. When multi-laterally addressed, the conditions for the sustainability of this vital industry could be realized.

The urgency of call to action cannot be overstated. It is our opinion if mitigation is not forthcoming, we can expect a new wave of business closures, with communities the hardest hit. Loss of business in this sector means loss of jobs throughout the entire food services supply chain. We implore your consideration and action.

 

We look to you for your leadership, appreciating the depth of demand upon our government. It is our commitment to you to do all possible to return our city, province and country to its full vibrancy in recovery.

 

Sincerely,

Silvia Martini

Interim CEO