Omicron hurting restaurants, particularly in Ontario

Despite improving COVID-19 numbers, the Omicron variant has hurt Canadian restaurants badly in recent weeks and the pain continues to be felt.

A new report from Alignable based on a survey conducted in late January shows that 80 per cent of responding restaurants across Canada and the U.S. said that they have been hurt by the variant.

In particular, staffing has been an issue for most of the year, but its severity increased as more staffers contracted COVID-19 and had to call in sick.

Overall, 57 per cent of small businesses in Canada reported that Omicron has negatively affected their January revenues. Four per cent of Canadian small businesses have been forced to shut down due to the variant, Alignable reports. Those owners are unsure when they’ll be able to reopen. 

Even beyond those statistics, another 25 per cent of small business owners in Canada said Omicron’s negative impact was “very significant.” 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was Ontario that bore the brunt in Canada. 63 per cent of small businesses in the province said they have suffered hardships from the Omicron variant. Issues are still quite significant, but less severe in British Columbia (50 per cent), and Alberta (45 per cent). 

Recovery stalls

Around November, 43 per cent of all small businesses across the U.S. and Canada had reported earning as much, if not more, monthly revenue than they generated prior to COVID-19, much of which was attributed to increased consumer spending for the holidays.

Small business owners had a 16 per cent lift from November to December, but swung backward with a 12 per cent decrease in January, largely due to Omicron. However, other factors also had their say, including skyrocketing inflation, ongoing labour shortages, and other related issues.

Beyond the percentages of businesses that are already affected by Omicron, stats around increasing fears are also up by 23 per cent over December. As of this week, a monumental 67 per cent said they feared it would hurt their recovery.

Many business owners noted that it can be comforting to hear that Omicron cases are declining, but that doesn’t mean their customers, revenues, and staffers will all of a sudden be restored. Alignable notes that, as with other surges and retreats, the problems left in their wake can become cumulative and can linger for months, if not longer.

Customer numbers were down because of widespread Omicron cases, as well as the escalated fear of catching it in enclosed spaces like restaurants, theaters, offices, and more.