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What Does Canada’s Post-COVID Restaurant Industry Look Like?

These are uncertain times for the Canadian restaurant industry and, without a crystal ball, it’s hard to know what’s on the horizon. In the short-term, the outlook is mixed. While restrictions are easing across the country and staff are returning, rising costs and wary customers mean it won’t be business as usual.

Climbing costs

Supply chain disruption and soaring fuel prices are being felt in every industry and restaurants are no exception. The cost of keeping eateries open keeps climbing, forcing owners to pass those expenses onto customers. 

Menu costs will have to rise with food costs but, so far, customers are tolerating the increase, given the current economic climate. Some higher-end items may have to fall off the menu if the cost of production is too high, but otherwise this is a good time to revisit pricing and menus if your business hasn’t already. 

Staff are coming back, but expect some changes

They may not be the same faces you had in the store at the beginning of the pandemic, but the job seeker numbers show that staff are starting to fill kitchens and dining rooms. The labor shortage isn’t over, however, and employers will need to continue to pad out employee benefits and wages to attract talent. 

You may also want to take the time to train new staff, or offer training to established workers to further develop their careers. FoodSafetyMarket offers convenient, nationally-accredited food handler certification courses online so there’s minimal disruption to your business while staff get their qualification. Accessible and engaging, our courses are designed to make learning fun and easy.  

Expect to see older workers re-joining the workforce as households struggle with inflation and pandemic-related job losses. Those who could afford to get by without a job may not be able to do so now, so be prepared for a demographic shift - and don’t reject candidates based on age, if they worked in a restaurant before they know the drill, no matter how long ago it was. 

People are used to eating at home - and they like it

With pandemic policies closing restaurants, people got used to fending for themselves and, for some, it was a pleasant surprise. Whether they discovered a love of cooking or are watching their budget, these customers prefer to eat at home and restaurants will have to consider how to target this market. 

This means revisiting delivery options, and doing things like providing your own delivery services rather than using expensive middlemen like Skip or Uber Eats. If your restaurant still needs time to find its niche, it may be worth sticking with these services while you build your brand but the long-term costs of relying on such services is a drain on finances - especially in the context of rising food costs. 

Think about how you’re marketing your business. Some eateries have had success emphasizing their affordability - in many cases, a restaurant can make a meal for less than the cost of acquiring ingredients and cooking at home. And even if those costs are equivalent, getting takeout instead of cooking is an attractive option for most busy families. Due to rising grocery costs, Canadian families will be receptive to this type of marketing.  

Reluctant customers may need some enticing

While the majority of restrictions have been lifted and customers are coming back to dining rooms, it may take some marketing and business savvy to lure customers who remain wary.

You may want to consider keeping some of the less-restrictive pandemic policies in place to cater to these nervous diners. If practical, space tables 6 feet apart and ask your servers if they’re happy to continue wearing masks - this obviously has to be their choice. If your restaurant has an outdoor area, you can also offer expanded patio seating in the summer months to accommodate those who are more comfortable eating al fresco. 

FoodSafetyMarket can help your business navigate the challenging times with market-leading food handler training, resources, and support. Contact us today to get your workforce ready for whatever comes your way.