Restaurant Revival: The Impacts of Covid-19 and the Industry Post-Lockdown

Restaurant Revival:
The Impacts of Covid-19 and the Industry Post-Lockdown

There’s no denying that every business has their hardships. Ups and downs are natural but in 2020 the restaurant industry experienced a blow like no other. Dining rooms were forced to close, takeout was the new norm and restaurants were forced to pivot whether or not they were equipped to do so. As the pandemic continues these new norms are more prevalent but vaccine rollouts have allowed a light at the end of the tunnel. There’s still a lot more work to do, but we can look ahead to the future with optimism.

For Kelseys Franchisee, Tracy Lacey, the early days of the pandemic brought about many uncertainties, especially as a franchisee. “Our restaurant's ability to survive was initially the hardest part of COVID. We were immediately forced into a position of laying off hundreds of employees without being able to provide them with any answers or guidance.” she says.

According to Restaurants Canada over 10,000 restaurants have closed their doors since March of last year. Fast forward one year later and only 3%* of businesses do not require any assistance managing their pandemic debt; while the rest are left in need of loan forgiveness or rent/wage subsidies to build their businesses back up.

*Restaurants Canada, 2020 Restaurant Outlook Survey

“I was thankful to be a part of the Recipe family during the first lock down, because the company recognized that many franchisees were in a very vulnerable state and cash flow was going to be a concern.” says Lacey. “Recipe introduced the RRCP program before the government announced their funding and it gave franchisees the comfort of knowing they would be supported throughout this crisis.”

Aligned with our value of doing the right thing, Recipe committed more than $40 million of direct financial support in 2020 to over 800 franchise partners in response to the pandemic through several initiatives. The launch of the Recipe Rent Certainty Program (RRCP) and the Recipe COVID Support Program (RCSP) saw to it that 483 eligible franchise partners received direct financial support resulting in $33.1 million in 2020 alone.

In addition to the RRCP and RCSP, Recipe was able to  

  • Reduce franchise royalty fees, which reduced total royalties by $7.5 million for 881 franchise partners 

  • Support negotiations with landlords to reduce or defer rent payments for franchise locations during the COVID-19 crisis 

  • Assist franchisees with navigating and understanding government wage and rent subsidy programs and related legislation 

  • Provide hands-on training on new procedures, including OHS protocols, to allow restaurants to open safely 

  • Support business recertification training to enable restaurants to reopen safely

As for the diners, we know their dining patterns have changed especially over the course of the pandemic. Even prior to COVID, Recipe identified the shift and responded by developing our own ghost kitchen model. Ultimate Kitchens was developed in response to consumers’ desire for more convenience and also to reach customers in urban areas where traditional brick and mortar restaurants couldn’t, due to cost. According to Restaurant Canada’s 2020 Outlook Survey the introduction of ghost kitchens will increase in the coming years 4% of respondents said they currently operate a ghost kitchen as part of their business model. Another 8% are planning to open a ghost kitchen in the next two years.

“I think the demand for non-traditional options like meal kits and takeout alcohol will also remain,” says Tracy. “Guests looked for new dining experiences during Covid and even though restrictions have lessened, guests are still participating in these options.” 

One thing is for sure, we know Canadians enjoy good food, good service and being social. It’s time to reinspire our guests to create new memories with us back in dining rooms.

So what does the future hold? 

According to Restaurants Canada, restaurants are key to bringing nearly a quarter of a million Canadians back to work. The latest Labour Force Survey data from Stats Canada reveals that foodservice and accommodation accounted for close to half of all jobs added to the Canadian economy in June and July of 2021. Good news right! Yes, but there’s still work to do since there are nearly 230,000 fewer workers in the foodservice sector than before the pandemic.

*Government of Canada, Labour Force Survey, July 2021

“It’s time to get back to the good old days, but do it better,” says Peter Higley, President of the Pickle Barrel. “We need to get back to in-person training and in-store experiences with staff, so we can re-energize the machine and get back to making great food and serving guests. During the pandemic there were so many stops and starts, and now it’s time to focus on the guest experience and bring the passion back to our dining rooms.”