ORHMA writes to Ontario Premier urging province to adjust foodservice measures

ORHMA says the foodservice sector will suffer repercussions if additional funding or other relief isn’t offered

The Ontario Restaurant, Hotel & Motel Association has written to Premier Doug Ford urging the province to offer more funding relief to the foodservice sector or otherwise modify the COVID-19 response framework.

In a letter dated December 10, ORHMA president Tony Elenis notes that the hospitality industry has been “devastated” by the pandemic and will be the last to recover.

Elenis writes that public health measures included
in Ontario’s COVID-19 Response Framework “single out” the restaurant industry and could have dire repercussions unless additional funding
relief is presented or modifications to the framework are introduced immediately.

Critical business concerns

ORHMA cites a recent authoritative survey which found that:

  • 8 out of 10 restaurants are either losing money or barely surviving
  • 65% of industry establishments are continuing to operate at a loss, while 19% are just breaking even
  • 63% of foodservice businesses that are losing money expect to take at least one year to return to profitability
  • 48% of single-unit foodservice operators expect to permanently close their establishments within six months unless conditions do not improve
  • 56% of multi-unit operators stated that they expect to close at least one of their location within the same time period.

Critical employment concerns

In addition, the association cites statistics sourced from the November 2020 employment data by Statistics Canada:

  • There are approximately 100,000 workers that have yet to return to their jobs in Ontario’s hospitality sector and these numbers are expected to grow due to the framework restrictions during the busiest time of the year
  • These numbers represent close to 50% of total jobs lost across all Ontario sectors and 40% of all jobs within the hospitality sector in Canada

The letter continues that while other industries are progressively recovering, the restaurant sector revenues and employment numbers continue to decline. Ontario’s foodservice sector is “brutally” underperforming in comparison to the other provinces as well as the
national averages.

Restaurant lockdowns and restrictions

Hospitality owners, operators, managers, and their frontline employees feel that restaurants are being wrongly singled out as an active source of virus outbreaks. Health officials view restaurants as a forum for gatherings where people meet and the outbreaks transpire.

ORHMA stresses that accessible data does not demonstrate that outbreaks are originating in the restaurant environment. In fact, a recent report
released by Science Table identifies only 7.1% of outbreaks originated in restaurants and bars.

In particular, it adds that while Toronto and Peel Region have been in a state of lockdown since early October and restaurants have therefore been closed, virus outbreaks have still been dramatically increasing. ORHMA says it suspects that closing restaurants has encouraged private gatherings in non-controlled environments. It urges the province to re-evaluate and adjust the restrictions given that “the existing evidence contradicts the decisions made.”

ORHMA’s specific suggestions

In the letter, Elenis offers specific suggestions for how Ontario should adjust its response. In particular, he says, restricting indoor seating capacity to 50 and 10 people is not financially viable for those with much larger space configurations, and a percentage calculation related to establishments’ total licenced seating capacity (similar to what has been used in other
jurisdictions) would be a more appropriate method for meeting safety rules and fairly supporting the sustainability of a restaurant.

Elenis adds that the current cut-off of 9 p.m. for serving alcoholic beverages for the establishments in Orange and Red Zones, drastically limits restaurants’ normal customer seating plans as it discourages reservations after 8:30 p.m. Expanding the time restriction by at least one hour to 10 p.m. will allow the establishments to maintain their vital third sittings starting
at 9:30 p.m., outlines the letter.

Back in early November, ORHMA had praised the Ford government’s budget for supporting the foodservice and hospitality industries, and Elenis’ letter concludes by thanking Ford and the province for the work done so far.

However, it asks for a review to “strongly consider” the association’s points to support of Ontario’s foodservice sector.


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