Backed by a raft of pandemic relief measures that are due to expire this fall, the National Restaurant Association wants the government to think of a new way to support its ailing industry.
Canada’s Restaurants, which represent 30,000 of the 97,000 restaurants, bars and caterers across the country, have asked the prime minister to consider subsidizing customer meals as a direct form of economic stimulus.
“Our sector has been hit more than others. So it is time to do something that is just ours,” said David Lefebvre, Group Vice President.
Restaurants Canada bring up the idea Before the next throne speech, Hoping that Ottawa will use the pandemic portfolio to increase revenues from dining as the annihilation season ends. The concept came from a program called Eat out to help, Which was launched in the UK last month.
In August, the UK government offered a 50 percent discount on meals for CAD $ 17 (£ 10) per dinner from Monday to Wednesday. Rishi Sonak, The charismatic young finance minister was himself the owner of the posters on the show, even impersonating the waiter when it was launched.
The British devoured it and ordered over 100 million meals. Restaurants applied the discount to their bills on the spot, and provided receipts to the government for payment. Nearly 85,000 restaurants participated.
“We feel it’s something that will definitely give a boost and motivate more restaurants to stay open,” said Lefebvre.
But there are questions about whether the idea will pay off here – and whether it is safe.
Costs and benefits
Across the pool, the program is celebrated by the government and many in the restaurant industry, one chain even claims 130% increase in sales.
The British government says it helped protect 1.8 million jobs and start the stalling sector. I cited a Searchable database From booking site OpenTable which says bookings Monday through Wednesday are up 53 percent in August 2020 compared to 2019.
Eat Out to Help Out is still costing. Figures released a few days before the end of the program showed that the government had already spent More than £ 520 million, Or more than 890 million Canadian dollars.
Lefebvre hopes that some kind of government-funded discount can help out failing restaurants over a period of a few months – particularly in January and February, which are traditionally slow as diners pay for the holidays.
Restaurants Canada estimates its industry lost 800,000 jobs when the pandemic struck. While many have returned, employment in the food service is still down 20 percent, or 260,000 jobs, according to Statistics Canada.
The association also estimates that 10 percent of restaurants have already closed permanently, and without aid, another 10 percent will be gone by November. By next March, it says up to 40 percent may close.
Restaurant owners say the discount deal could be beneficial for business. It is a group of Ontario owners Start their own version of the concept in October.
Nuno Rampen, owner and chef of Nuno Ethiopian Restaurant in Toronto, says a government-sponsored discount can make a big difference.
Sure, I really like it. It’s a really cool idea, ”said Rambin.
She and her husband Chris Nono opened during the 2008 recession. Now, after 12 years of hard work, they say the pandemic is about to cause them to stop working. They are only serving clients in their licensed yard in town due to safety concerns.
They are wondering what is the right timing for the discount program.
“If you are about to go back to lockdown, it’s money that is not being used wisely,” said Chris Rampen.
In Calgary, Francine Gomez feels her restaurants have weathered the pandemic better than some others due to their take-out service.
“These small businesses have operating expenses that they have to pay regardless of whether the customer sits in the seat or not,” said Gomez, who owns two chicken restaurants called Cluck N Cleaver with her sister Nicole. “So they definitely need some direct relief.”
However, her hunch is that it will only provide a “rapid increase” in revenue due to the physical distancing and many diners’ fear of eating out.
Fears of the virus spreading
An analysis by a policy expert from the University of Oxford takes a closer look at the Eat Out to Help Out program that supports this theory.
The results published by Toby Phillips indicate that the program caused a sales boom but had no lasting impact on the business.
Based on sales trends from July, Phillips believes the UK hospitality industry has been on its way back on its own, and that sales are now where they would have been anyway.
And he has more interest. “At the same time as the program was running, the UK started seeing a slight increase in COVID-19 cases,” Phillips wrote in an article for The Conversation.
He said it might not be possible to determine whether the program had caused the high number of infections, but that the popular opponent and the encouragement to go out on certain days of the week presented potential problems.
“Any scheme that encourages a ‘return to normal’ mentality is risky, as it will make it difficult in the future to deal with the outbreak,” Phillips said in an email to CBC News.
He suggests a safer option would be to promote take-out, an idea that Canada Restaurants also support.
Critics of the plan
In the UK, some restaurants have launched the program symbolic Others withdrew from it Because of “hostility towards employees.”
However, it was very popular there Prompt to be repeated, And some companies Continue promoting themselves.
Here, A new alliance of hospitality companies Led by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce is pushing the government To encourage Canadians to come back out.
Lefebvre realizes that the government only has a limited budget, but he adds, but many restaurants are still hopeless. “They need something to happen.”
Both groups say there is a need for a new program to reduce rents and wage subsidies that will be extended into the new year.
For more stories about black Canadians’ experiences – from racism against blacks to success stories within the black community – check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of.
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