The Ontario government’s recent announcement to revert four cities to stage two protocols will severely affect businesses

On Oct. 13, the Government of Ontario introduced additional targeted public health measures in COVID-19 hotspots in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.

As part of these measures, indoor food and drink service at restaurants, bars and other food and drink establishments in Toronto, Ottawa, and Peel and York regions are prohibited, an Ontario government release said. These restrictions are in place for at least the next 28 days and will be continuously reviewed by officials.

The new restrictions, which are aimed at keeping Ontarians safe, will hit the industry hard.

“Even before these new restrictions came into effect in Ontario, foodservice employment was lagging far behind other sectors,” said Todd Barclay, Restaurants Canada’s president and CEO.

Restaurants Canada is a national, not-for-profit association advancing the potential of Canada’s diverse and dynamic foodservice industry through member programs, research, advocacy, resources, and events.

“At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, 800,000 foodservice workers were laid off. … While the vast majority of industries have been able to bring employees back to work and are hovering (between) one and 10 per cent below pre-COVID-19 employment levels, there continues to be a significant gap in the restaurant industry,” Barclay said.

“As of September, employment in the foodservice and hospitality sectors was still 15 per cent below February levels, with at least 188,000 jobs lost during the pandemic still not recovered. Recent indoor dining closures in Ontario and Quebec will result in this shortfall growing even larger.”

Restaurants Canada predicts that closing indoor dining in COVID-19 hotspots will result in more job loss, an organization release said.

Toronto businesses could see a loss of 33,000 jobs. Peel Region and Ottawa may lose 14,900 and 12,000 positions, respectively. The York Region could also lose up to 8,800 jobs, the release said.

Foodservice job losses also affect the communities where these businesses operate.

“Restaurants make up a critical pillar of Canada’s culture and economy. Restrictions on restaurant operations not only have devastating impacts for everyone working in the foodservice sector, but also for the many other small and medium businesses (that) rely on a thriving foodservice sector for their survival,” Barclay said.

“Restaurants are essential to a resilient and inclusive COVID-19 recovery for communities across the country.”

Indeed, employers, workers and customers all play a critical role in keeping the public safe and preventing spread. The Government of Ontario website has resources, best practices and information to promote workplace safety.

Doug Ford, Ontario’s premier, agrees that service industry stakeholders support communities and need support throughout the pandemic.

“Families and entrepreneurs across Ontario have poured their hearts into local restaurants and diners. They’ve been there for us, from donating to charities to sponsoring little league sports,” Premier Ford said in the release.

Restaurants also play a significant role in maintaining the province’s food value chain.

“Foodservice supports a wide variety of supply chain businesses, indirectly supporting more than 290,000 jobs. Restaurants typically spend more than $30 billion per year on food and beverage purchases, playing a critical role (in) the agri-food sector,” Barclay said. As restaurants close or shrink in capacity, business owners may need to reduce inventory or local food purchases. This situation has ripple effects for farmers.

To help support foodservice businesses and promote strong economic recovery, Restaurants Canada calls for immediate action from federal, provincial, and municipal governments.

Some of these measures include granting access to data on effectiveness of COVID-19 containment efforts among the foodservice sector, ensuring insurance companies honour business interruption claims, and developing an emergency assistance program for restaurants forced to close in targeted areas, the Restaurants Canada release said.

Restaurants Canada also calls on all levels of government to stop system-wide restaurant closures, Barclay said in an open letter on Oct. 22. Foodservice industry stakeholders have invested over $750 million to heighten customer safety in restaurants and business owners want to know what they can do to stop widespread closures, he added.

In response to the restrictions, the Government of Ontario announced $300 million in relief for local restaurants and other affected businesses, the release said. This fund will help offset fixed costs such as property taxes, hydro and natural gas bills. Government officials are also modernizing regulations to allow businesses to innovate and are providing mental health supports for business owners and employees who are struggling, the release added.

“I’m also calling on everyone in Ontario to rally around our small businesses by ordering takeout or delivery. Together, we can make a huge difference,” Ford said in the release.


 

Farmwork to Feed Canada (F2FC) is a national volunteer not-for-profit initiative by Canadian communication professionals, students, and recent graduates in communications. F2FC collaborates with farmers, and agri-businesses amid COVID-19 pandemic-related challenges to Canada’s food supply and food security, to engage Canadians, pro bono, with compelling stories about their food system and build support for Canada’s farmers, food producers, and their essential skilled workers.

Kate Ayers

Kate Ayers

Kate Ayers grew up on a beef and cash crop farm in central Ontario. Inspired by her passion for agriculture, she completed a degree in agricultural science at the University of Guelph in 2017. Kate always had a love for writing, but it was not until her last year of undergrad that she realized the potential to pursue a career in ag communications. And what a revelation it was for her! She also runs track competitively in Victoria, B.C. and is training for the Tokyo 2021 Olympics.

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