“We are in a good spot.”
That’s from BC Restaurant and Food Services Association President and CEO Ian Tostenson as restaurant and bar sales surged past pre-pandemic levels.
According to Stats Canada, total sales in the food services sector hit 6.8-billion dollars as of March, nearly 5% higher than what was recorded in March of 2019.
Tostenson told Vista Radio a resurgence was not unexpected as more people head back to their old routines.
“We knew that there was going to be pent-up demand. Unlike Border Services, we knew this was going to happen so we prepared for it and as you and I have talked, we could use more staff to handle the sales but it’s a real welcomed relief to the industry as we have taken a lot of hits over the past two years.”
He mentioned the appetite shown by the public to head to their favourite eatery isn’t the least bit surprising.
“We are kind of in a good spot because even though there is this sort of dark economic cloud around us right now with fuel prices – we are still seeing that the consumers still want to go out so that two years of not being able to go out and be social is being expressed in high demand.”
“It may not be a full-on meal that you go and have, you may just sort of step down and do a glass of wine and share appetizers with your friends. The average check may go down but people are still going out and that is a good thing for us.”
Tostenson agrees with Restaurants Canada that it will take about two years for the industry to recover from the pandemic.
He added while the recent success is nice, it came with a hefty cost.
“I remember one restaurant owner that called me and said he cashed a $150,000 of their savings just to be able to keep paying their skeleton staff they had and the rent they could. That is pretty typical for most of them and this is a low-margin business and it’s a cash flow business. As long as you have cash flowing in when you this kind of sales velocity, you can kind of get ahead of yourself.”
Tostenson and industry leaders continue to call on governments to extend the deadlines for repaying financial assistance.