The layoffs are among some 800,000 food service positions cut across the country since March 1, according to Restaurants Canada, a national not-for-profit association representing the commercial food service industry.
The Nova Scotia restaurant industry normally employs approximately 34,500 people and generates $ 2.1 billion in sales, according to Gordon Stewart, executive director of the Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia.
The restaurants have been ordered to close their doors to prevent the spread of COVID-19, although they are allowed to offer takeout and deliveries. Steward said most will survive the pandemic. But some will not succeed.
“We will certainly see victims. I think we will already see somewhere in the order of more than 200 victims, “he told CBC Nova Scotia News.
The restaurant industry in Canada has 97,500 establishments, including full-service restaurants, quick-service restaurants, caterers and drinking places, said Restaurants Canada.
Restaurants Canada said in a press release that its investigation has shown that one in 10 restaurants in Canada has already closed permanently and 18% will close permanently within a month, if current conditions continue. The survey was conducted from March 25 to 29, among 655 food service operators representing 13,300 locations.
With few or no customers, some restaurants are unable to pay rent. Stewart and Restaurants Canada would both like the landlords to give rent relief and give the restaurants periods without payment.
In Halifax, it’s not uncommon for restaurants to pay $ 20,000 a month in rent, said Stewart, and it’s a big burden to bear. The rent deferrals sound good, he said, but in the end the bill will have to be paid and it could still be difficult.
“When everything is carried over to the restaurant, it’s a big big payment that they are going to have to take along with all the other payments that they are going to have to make anyway, because nobody relieves it, they all carry it over,” he said.
Even when business returns to normal, Stewart does not believe that many restaurants will rebound quickly. He estimates that the food service industry takes five times longer to recover than other businesses following an economic downturn or financial crisis.
“In the market, we are going to see a substantial change,” he said. “When we open our doors – I hope it will be the start of summer – there will be no more tourists, there will be no more big market. There will be no conventions, it is another market … Many of the pieces of our sales will not be there. ”
Restaurants Canada is proposing measures to help ease these burdens, including working with all levels of government to find ways to access working capital so that restaurants have the money to reopen when the rules on physical distancing are lifted .
The federal government is already providing billions of dollars in assistance to help Canadian businesses cope with the pandemic, including income support, wage subsidies and tax deferrals.
Meanwhile, a new initiative in Halifax, called Dine and Stay Home, aims to encourage people to buy food from local restaurants that are still open and to offer delivery and pick-up options.
Various groups, including Discover Halifax and Restaurants Nova Scotia, have launched the online effort and are compiling a list of restaurants that are still operational.