Sales at restaurants and bars in this country have exceeded their pre-COVID-19 levels for the first time since the start of the pandemic, according to Statistics Canada.
However, an industry group has warned that with rising inflation, many restaurateurs are still struggling to get by.
New data released Tuesday shows sales at Canadian restaurants and bars rose 6.5% month-on-month in March to $6.8 billion. Year over year, sales increased 35% from March 2021, 62.9% from March 2020 and 4.9% from March 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic .
The rise in restaurant and bar sales in March this year came as pandemic-related restrictions eased across the country. Ontario saw the largest dollar increase, while Manitoba saw the largest percentage increase.
However, the increase in sales also coincided with rising inflation and rising food prices across the country. According to Statistics Canada, restaurant food prices rose 5.4% in March 2022 compared to March 2021, while prices for alcoholic beverages served in licensed establishments rose 3.6% in March 2022. during the same period.
“As sales are up, restaurants are also facing higher operating expenses,” said Chris Elliot, senior economist for industry group Restaurants Canada.
Elliot said that in response to a Restaurants Canada survey conducted April 5-15, six in 10 restaurateurs in Ontario said their businesses were still losing money or barely making it. He added that while more Canadians have been dining out this spring, many in the industry are concerned that those numbers will decline as more households feel the bite of inflation.
“While there was an initial increase in sales due to pent-up consumer demand, we may see some moderation in spending over the summer due to the rising cost of living,” Elliot said in a statement. email, adding the same survey identified food costs, labor costs and shortages, and supply disruptions as the biggest challenges facing restaurateurs.
According to Restaurants Canada, before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the restaurant sector in Canada was a $95 billion industry that directly employed 1.2 million people. Over the more than two years of the pandemic and varying levels of public health restrictions on in-person dining across the country, the industry has lost hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in sales.
In a press release last month, the industry group said it continued to press for an extension of loan forgiveness and repayment to help revive the restaurant industry.
—The Canadian Press