TORONTO – Rising food and labour costs are the top two challenges facing Canada’s restaurant industry, according to the latest findings from the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association’s (CRFA’s) Restaurant Outlook Survey. The survey also finds a growing number of restaurant operators expect sales to slow over the next six months. Despite these pressures, restaurant operators are holding the line on menu prices and staffing levels.

Survey highlights
The results from the fourth quarter of 2011, released today, show the top factors negatively affecting restaurants sales are:

rising food costs, cited by 77% of respondents;
increasing labour costs, cited by 67% of respondents;
a weak economy, cited by 58% of respondents; and
a shortage of skilled labour, cited by 32% of respondents.
In terms of the sales outlook over the next six months:

31% of operators expect their sales to grow at a slower rate over the next six months – compared to 19% of respondents in the third quarter of 2011.
22% expect sales to grow at a faster rate – compared to 28% of respondents in the third quarter.
Despite these pressures, operators are hesitant to pass on rising costs to customers – 53% of respondents expect to hold menu prices steady over the next six months compared to 40% in Q2 of 2011. CRFA’s survey also indicates three-quarters of restaurant operators will maintain employment levels or add new staff over the next six months.

“At our core, we are a service industry that invests in people,” says Whyte. “As the fourth-largest employer in Canada and the number one source of first jobs in Canada, restaurants play a vital role in job creation in every community.”

Food and labour are the two largest expenses for restaurants, taking nearly 70 cents of every dollar in sales. Statistics Canada reports an average pre-tax profit margin for restaurants of just 4.5% of operating revenue.

Meeting with Bank of Canada
CRFA met with Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney yesterday to discuss these findings, and outline the importance of our $63-billion, 1.1-million-employee industry.