More than half of Canadian restaurants could close permanently in months, survey finds

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TORONTO – A terrible prediction for the restaurant industry in Canada, as a new survey finds 60 percent say they are unable to operate with social distancing measures in place and may have to shut down. “We had to make a tough decision and we made it,” said Hal Roback, owner Frankie Tomatto’s, a popular restaurant in Markham that has been in existence for 25 years.

The Italian buffet which has had to remain closed since March has made the decision to close its doors for good due to COVID -19 and the likelihood that it will not be able to make a profit in the near future.

Roback said closing the restaurant, which is also a place where tourists can stop to take photos because it has a 55-foot-tall leaning tower, was difficult to do.

“It was truly a heartbreaking experience,” said Roback.

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce survey found that 29% of foodservice businesses cannot operate with social distancing in effect and 31% of foodservice businesses say they can only operate with social distancing that for 90 days.

The chamber says that means 60 per cent. 100 of Canadian restaurants could go bankrupt within three months.

“This is very disturbing,” said CEO and President of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce Perrin Beatty.

Beatty said 1.2 million Canadians work in the restaurant industry with an annual payroll of $ 30 billion.

He said in good times profit margins were only four to six percent and with COVID-19 it was nearly impossible for many restaurants to make money.

“If you take half the seats in a restaurant because of social distancing, it’s just a math question. There’s just no way to make it work no matter how hard you try, ”Beatty said.

Beatty said the industry needed government programs specifically designed to help restaurants weather the pandemic.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford has acknowledged that the restaurant industry is going through difficult times.

“It’s a tough business and a lot of people are suffering right now, but hopefully we can get to a point where they can divide the tables and at least try to keep the doors open,” Ford said.

The industry is asking the public to support restaurants in their local communities where several restaurants like Frankie Tomatto will also close their doors.

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