Restaurants an affordable luxury
Wednesday, February 4, 2009 | 12:30 PM ET
by Kevin Yarr, CBCNews.ca
Last November, as it was becoming clear that Canada — along with the rest of the world — was slipping into the deepest recession in a generation, Canadians did an unexpected thing.
We went out to eat.
Or perhaps we went out for drinks, since the recent numbers from Statistics Canada combine food and beverage service establishments. Otherwise the report was pretty clear: sales up 6.7 per cent over November of 2007. Nowhere was this more pronounced than in my home province of Prince Edward Island, where sales jumped 16.8 per cent.
An informal survey of Island restaurants conducted by CBC News suggests the trend continued into January.
If this is a surprise to you you're not alone. The Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association had forecast weak business in 2008, precisely because "continued economic weakness will result in a moderation in disposable income and employment growth." It made that forecast in December 2007, when no one could guess just how weak the economy would get.
But I can't help but wonder if the CRFA is simply on the wrong track. In October 2007, the association reported weak growth "despite rising incomes and the lowest unemployment rate in 33 years."
So what's going on here? Perhaps a statistical oddity: it's not safe to draw any real conclusions from two sets of numbers.
It is tempting, however, to think that people want a little luxury in their lives. If you've already put off the new car, the vacation down south or the big-screen TV, maybe justifying a night out or a quick lunch with friends is a little easier.
Will you eat out more often this year than you did last year?
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About the blog
From trends and culture to politics and nutrition, Food Bytes serves up tasty tidbits about food and the issues surrounding it that flavour our everyday lives.
About the writers
Amber Hildebrandt writes for CBCNews.ca in Toronto. Growing up on a farm in Manitoba, she acquired an insatiable appetite, but it was during a stint in Japan that she developed her discerning tastebuds and "foodie" ways.
Andrea Chiu is an associate producer at CBC Radio Digital. Though she loves to eat, cook and discuss food, don't ask her to bake. It never turns out well. She tweets as @TOfoodie on Twitter and organizes food and wine events in Toronto called FoodieMeet.
Tara Kimura is the consumer life reporter for CBCNews.ca, covering a wide range of issues that range from rising food costs and the growing organic movement, to new trends in the marketplace.
Andree Lau is a CBC web reporter in Calgary. Her journalism career includes seven years as a CBC-TV reporter. Her own blog called "are you gonna eat that?" chronicles her eating adventures (including sampling snake and camel hoof tendon).
Jessica Wong is a CBCNews.ca writer who loves to eat and cook, as well as discuss, read and watch programming about food, sometimes all at once.
Kevin Yarr, CBCNews.ca's writer in Prince Edward Island, wrote about food and beer for national and regional magazines before joining the CBC. He acquired a desire for new tastes on his first trip to Europe, and an appreciation of eating locally and in season when he finally settled down on P.E.I.
Elizabeth Bridge is a writer with the CBC Digital Archives in Toronto. She first ventured into the kitchen as a child to indulge a sweet tooth by baking cookies and making fudge. A student budget compelled her to be a vegetarian (for a while) and instilled in her an ongoing curiosity about food and cooking.
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