HALIFAX -- A new study suggests the number of people who will continue to work from home could take a big bite out of the restaurant business that is already struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The owners of Dartmouth restaurant The Wooden Monkey say business was down 45 per cent in July.

An expert in the field says he expects the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to devastate the food and service industry in Canada.

“In a year from now, 25 per cent of all restaurants will disappear” says Sylvain Charlebois, a professor in food distribution and policy in the Faculties of Management and Agriculture at Dalhousie University.

Charlebois predicts the outlook to be especially grim in this region of Canada.

“The market which will be the most hit in the country is likely going to be the Maritimes.”

A severe plunge in tourism has brought about a huge drop-off in customers, and Charlebois says they won’t be coming back to this region for a while.

Charlebois and his team at Dalhousie University released a new report Tuesday, suggesting that the more people work from home, the less likely they are to spend money on food and beverages at local restaurants.

“We are expecting the industry to lose $20 billion, on top of what’s actually happened this spring,” says Charlebois.

He expects up to 30 per cent of lost business in the next year could be a result of people working from home.

At the Mic Mac Tavern in Dartmouth, results have been mixed.

“We’re operating at about 60 per cent capacity as opposed to 100 per cent capacity,” says manager Joel Chiasson.

Chiasson says while businesses hasn’t been great, it has been good enough to avoid layoffs.

“We’ve still employed everyone we employed prior to COVID,” says Chiasson.

While there may not be as many customers, there is still lots of work to be done, with enforcing physical distancing, screening customers and keeping the tavern as safe and clean as possible.

“Our payroll is roughly the same, everything is pretty much on par,” says Chiasson.

Luc Erjavec from Restaurants Canada told CTV News in a statement that he hopes governments and other office workers will be returning to their office, and will help the lunch trade pick up.