Struggling to survive inflation and a shortage of workers, restaurants across Canada are offering fewer menu items, cutting hours, and raising prices, according to trade association Restaurants Canada.

Half the country’s restaurants are either operating in the red or just breaking even, the group reported, with sales collectively down 11 percent from 2019’s levels.

Customers have returned in strength for evening meals, but traffic at lunchtime is still 22 percent below pre-COVID levels as more Canadians continue to work remotely.

A third of Canadians able to work remotely were doing so as of May, although the proportion was as much as half in several major cities, according to The Canadian Press.

Due to inflation, more diners are expected to continue cutting back their trips to restaurants and save those visits for special occasions, the report predicted.

Most restaurants are operating with no more than 80 percent of their full complement of workers, with cooks and other back-of-the-house jobs hardest to fill.

Prices at full-service eateries will rise by 7.8 percent this year, compared to last, with a third foreseeing hikes as much as 15 percent, the association predicted.

Fast-food joints will boost prices 7.1 percent in the aggregate.

“The low-hanging fruit for addressing rising food costs is to simply cut back on portion sizes,” the association’s report said.

“The catch-22 is the compounding effect of labor shortages,” it noted. “It leaves the customer not only getting less food for their dollar, but also a decrease in the service levels they were receiving” before COVID.

Restaurants need a “multi-prong approach” to overcome their challenges, including “creative” sourcing of lower-cost supplies, offering fewer menu items to trim costs, and serving smaller portions to reduce food waste, the report recommended.

TREND FORECAST: What is happening in Canada is happening around the world. As a result of the draconian COVID War mandates imposed on nations by politicians, businesses have been destroyed across the service sector spectrum. And now with less people commuting to work and the work-at-home trend becoming the new normal, the economic pain on businesses, such as restaurants, that depended on commuters, will continue. 

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