Media Releases Mar 18, 2021

New data portrays the stark reality for the food service sector in 2020: Canadian Chamber of Commerce

(OTTAWA) – March 18, 2021 – The Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s Director of Parliamentary Affairs and SME Policy, Alla Drigola, today released the following statement regarding a new report from Statistics Canada examining the impact of COVID-19 on food services and drinking places during the first quarter of 2021.

“Today’s numbers highlight the unique challenges of the food services sector during the pandemic, and the disproportionate impact upon sectors dependent upon in person transactions.

These businesses, while on the receiving end of continuously changing operating restrictions, have undertaken an enormous amount of work in pivoting or in some cases entirely reimaging their operations over the last year while operating with severely impacted revenues. While this is a testament to their resiliency, it is also a stark reminder many in the food sector are hanging on by a thread. We need to ensure we are increasing our supports for these businesses.

Notable data points from today’s survey include:

  • In 2020 nearly one-fifth (19.4%) of food services and drinking places made 30% or more of their total sales online, more than double the proportion that did in 2019 (9.1%).
  • Over four-fifths (86.5%) of food services and drinking places experienced a decrease in revenue in 2020 compared to three-fifths (60.5%) of all businesses. 
  • A decline in revenue of 40% or more in 2020 was a reality for over two-fifths (42.9%) of food services and drinking places, with those in Quebec (50.9%), Manitoba (47.9%) and Ontario (44.9%) most likely to see this level of loss.

When you contrast these figures with those of all businesses (just under one-fifth (19.2%) of all businesses experienced a decline in revenue of 40% or more in 2020, over one-fifth (20.7%) saw revenues unchanged and nearly one-fifth (18.1%) saw revenues increase, it becomes hard to ignore the disproportionate toll this pandemic has taken on our restaurants across the country.

What the food services sector needs now is two-fold. First is continued support programs, which must include an extension of the CEWS and CERS programs. In addition, an element of debt relief will be the only lifeline available for many; this needs to be part of the recovery conversation. Second, food services would benefit greatly from having stable, predictable, and evidence-based restriction policies in place so that they are better able to plan and navigate this evolving crisis.”

About the Canadian Chamber of Commerce – Because Business Matters

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce helps build the businesses that support our families, our communities and our country. We do this by influencing government policy, by providing essential business services and by connecting businesses to information they can use, to opportunities for growth and to a network of local chambers, businesses, decision-makers and peers from across the country, in every sector of the economy and at all levels of government, as well as internationally. We are unapologetic in our support for business and the vital role it plays in building and sustaining our great nation.


For more information, please contact:

Phil Taylor