More than 121,000 food service jobs have been lost in B.C. due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to an estimate from Restaurants Canada.
The national non-profit estimated that 800,000 jobs had been lost nationwide, and many may not return – nearly one in 10 Canadian restaurants have already closed permanently, and another 18 per cent are predicted to close within a month under current conditions.
“While our members appreciate the government relief measures announced so far, the reality is a growing portion of B.C. restaurateurs are considering permanent closure as they cannot pay their operating costs with no income,” said a statement from Mark von Schellwitz, Restaurants Canada vice-president for Western Canada. “Urgent additional relief is required to help these businesses survive or there will be fewer jobs for the thousands of temporarily laid off restaurant employees to return to once social distancing measures are lifted.”
This comes after stringent orders from B.C.’s top doctor that all restaurants close their doors to dine-in guests and move to take-out and delivery services only, in an effort to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. That order came after officials banned events with more than 50 attendees and shut down all bars and nightclubs in the province.
The food service sector is a $15 billion industry in B.C. and the third largest private sector employer, directly employing nearly 193,000 workers. Restaurants Canada estimates that if current conditions continue, B.C. food service sales for the second quarter of 2020 will be down more than $3 billion.
“Not only was our industry among the first to feel the impacts of COVID-19, we’ve been one of the hardest hit so far, with nearly two-thirds of our workforce now lost,” read a statement from Shanna Munro, Restaurants Canada president and CEO. “In our 75 years of existence as Canada’s national food service association, these are by far the worst numbers we have ever seen.”
A Restaurants Canada survey revealed that four out of five Canadian restaurants have laid off employees since March 1 and seven out of 10 food service operators plan for further cuts in hours or layoffs if conditions don’t improve.
The non-profit said it is working with all levels of government on rent relief, wage subsidies and access to working capital.
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