HALIFAX -- Since March 1, about 800,000 foodservice jobs have already been lost nationwide due to COVID-19, according to a survey released by Restaurants Canada.

Out of the 800,000, almost 25,000 of those lost jobs are in Nova Scotia alone, and they may never return if conditions don’t improve.

“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,” said Shanna Munro, Restaurants Canada President and CEO.

“In our 75 years of existence as Canada’s national foodservice association, these are by far the worst numbers we have ever seen.”

With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, many restaurants are struggling to pay rent and bills due in April.

In a survey, foodservice operators across Canada revealed:

  • Four out of five restaurants have laid off employees since March 1.
  • Seven out of 10 foodservice operators will further cut back on staff hours, or lay off more employees if conditions do not improve.
  • Nearly one out of 10 restaurants has already closed permanently, and another 18 per cent will permanently close within a month if current conditions continue.

Nova Scotia's $2.1-billion foodservice industry represents 4.6 per cent of the province's GDP. According to Restaurants Canada, the province's food sale services will be down more than $440 million for the second quarter of 2020 if conditions do not improve.

Restaurants Canada continues to work with all levels of government to strengthen actions already taken in the following areas to provide foodservice businesses with more immediate protection and relief, as well as help to reopen and rehire.

  • Rent relief: Flexible arrangements are needed from landlords to allow for payment-free periods. Foodservice operators are looking for a coordinated effort led by government, coupled with ongoing commercial tenant protections to relieve pressure while immediate and long-term solutions are developed that will work for all parties involved.
  • Access to working capital: With little-to-no sales revenue coming in for most foodservice businesses, many have already depleted their reserve funds, or soon will. Existing measures may need to be expanded and new solutions continue to be welcomed to ensure restaurants will have enough working capital to reopen their doors once physical distancing rules are lifted.
  • Labour: An expansion of the qualifying conditions and time period for accessing the 75 per cent wage subsidy would help restaurants not only keep workers on payroll but allow those already laid off to be rehired.

“We commend the Government of Nova Scotia for providing protection to commercial tenants and other relief measures introduced so far that have shown the concerns of foodservice are being heard,” said Luc Erjavec, Restaurants Canada Vice President, Atlantic Canada.

“Without the steps already taken, the impacts on our industry would be even more devastating. In this time of crisis, it is reassuring to see governments, at all levels, come to the table with solutions.”

For this survey, Restaurants Canada received 655 completed surveys from foodservice operators across Canada, representing 13,300 locations.