Canadian foodservice

The state of play for Canadian foodservice at the end of 2021

As we close out 2021 and approach another new year for Canadian foodservice, Lightspeed’s State of the Hospitality Industry report has shone some light on the current sentiments from restaurant operators and guests.

Chief among the conclusions of the report, based on a wide survey of operators and customers in Canada and beyond, was that operators must work hard and smart to attract and retain staff and embrace the rapid pace of technological change in the industry.

Staff shortages still a struggle

The ongoing labour crisis has been much-discussed, and 36 per cent of responding Canadian restaurant operators said they are operating with fewer members of staff than they need. 16 per cent are open fewer hours because of those staffing challenges.

Meanwhile, around one-third (34 per cent) said they have increased wages and/or benefits to attract or retain staff.

So how are Canadian restaurants looking to mitigate those struggles?

Over half (51 per cent) expect more automation technology to support employees and 29 per cent expect to allow more flexibility for employees. In addition, 22 per cent anticipate making changes to operating hours and 18 per cent said they will introduce more benefits for employees.

The ultimate conclusion is that restaurant staffing is changing and operators must remain competitive with surrounding businesses by benchmarking wages, benefits, hours, and other factors against competitors. In a time when wellness is recognized as key, owners and operators should keep checking in with staff to provide feedback so that you can create the best working environment possible for everyone. Staff should also be empowered to stand up for themselves, each other, and other guests in difficult situations via training and clear, well-communicated policies.


It’s not just tackling labour struggles that requires technology. On average, 87 per cent of responding operators either somewhat or strongly agreed that new technology adoption over the last two years has been critical for their business’ survival. When broken down by restaurant type, 47 per cent of full-service restaurant (FSR) operators and 37 per cent of quick-service restaurant (QSR) operators said that new technology was critical to their business.

Overall, 51 per cent of Canadian foodservice operators plan to utilize automation technology in the next two or three years.

Technology is integral to the future, and while automated technology was once seen as a job-killer, businesses are increasingly recognizing that it can actually help support understaffed operations and prevent staff becoming overworked and burned out.

In addition, online ordering is king right now and is expected to keep growing. Integrating an online ordering platform owned, managed, and promoted in-house could be key.

The guest perspective

When it comes to how diners are feeling, 41 per cent of Canadian foodservice consumers said they intend to support restaurants over the next year through buying more takeout, while 28 per cent said they would dine out more often and 27 per cent plan to give higher tips. In addition, 10 per cent plan to buy gift cards and eight per cent to purchase merchandise.

Interestingly, Canada was the only country surveyed, among others like the U.S., the U.K., France, and Germany, where increasing levels of dine-was not the most popular answer. Canadians are more likely to stick with takeout for the time being.

Meanwhile, 58 per cent said they need face masks to feel safe eating inside a restaurant, followed by the 36 per cent who said they are willing to keep having to provide proof of vaccination before entering. One-fifth (21 per cent) said they would like to see outdoor dining spaces, while 14 per cent each said QR codes/digital menus and self-ordering are appealing.

When it comes to payment, a huge 79 per cent say they prefer to settle a bill through credit or debit card, and 15 per cent would opt for contactless payment. Only 15 per cent said they like to use cash.

Operators should look to help guests find them and support them via additional revenue streams like gift cards and other retail items, preferably through an e-commerce solution. Contactless payment options go a long way to appealing to guests, as do various methods of ordering.

Read the full report and its conclusions on Canadian foodservice here.