No doubt about it: we’re living in unusual times. The ongoing pandemic has made it impossible to enjoy many of the pleasures we once took for granted. Case in point: visiting a favourite local eatery or new culinary hotspot. Needless to say, diners are feeling the loss. But if you’re a restauranteur, you’re experiencing the impact of this shift even more—day in, day out.
If you own a restaurant in Ontario—or you’re thinking of buying one in the not-too-distant future—here’s what you should know…
COVID-19 and the restaurant industry
On March 16th, Ontario’s chief medical officer called for the closure of all restaurant dining rooms, and the impact has been swift. According to Restaurants Canada, nearly one-third of pandemic-related food service job losses last month were in our province.
Fortunately, the federal government has taken steps to help protect small businesses during this challenging time. Measures include a 75 per cent wage subsidy for up to three months (retroactively starting March 15th) and a deferment of Goods and Services/Harmonized Sales Taxes (GST & HST) until June. New lending programs have also been set up to help small and medium-sized businesses weather financial hardship related to COVID-19.
If you own a restaurant and you’re concerned about paying the bills, these government supports are good news. You can learn more about the supports offered by the federal government here.
Strength in a Crisis
During this challenging time, many restaurants are staying afloat by providing takeout and delivery. In this period of self-imposed isolation, these services are in high demand. Even upscale eateries have pivoted to this model during the the pandemic.
Providing meals through apps like Uber Eats and DoorDash is a great way to continue bringing in money, while enabling patrons to support local businesses like yours throughout the crisis. For the time being, licensed restaurants can even deliver alcohol—without paying a fee.
A number of Ontario eateries are also doing their part for the community. In Toronto, Maker Pizza is offering doctors, nurses, and other frontline health care workers a free pizza (takeout or delivery). East-end favourite Ascari is donating 50 per cent of its gift certificate sales to its employees who aren’t currently working. These are just a couple of examples of how Ontario restaurants are stepping up.
While COVID-19 is having a significant impact on Ontario’s restaurant sector, our food scenes are resilient. By adopting an innovative mindset, adapting to the changing business climate, and implementing enhanced health and safety precautions, existing eateries can take steps toward securing their livelihoods.
When restaurants do reopen, we’ll likely also see lower rents for spaces. That could mean more affordable square footage—and a new wave of innovative culinary hotspots. There’s little doubt that when that happens, there will also be a long line of excited diners waiting to check them out.
Thinking about starting a restaurant business in the future? Doing your homework is key—take the first step by learning what to look for in a space.