British Columbia

121,500 B.C. food-service staff have lost jobs due to COVID-19 — and more could follow: Restaurants Canada

Workers dealing with jobs losses in the wake of restaurant closures due to the COVI-19 crisis could be facing an even greater shock when all is said and done.

Nearly 10% of restaurants across country have closed since March 1, according to association survey

The interior of the Autostrada Osteria restaurant in Vancouver on March 30. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

More than 120,000 restaurant workers in B.C. lost their jobs at least temporarily in the past month, the national association for the food service industry estimates.

And many are now facing the prospect of never returning to their workplaces, as measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 look set to remain in place for weeks, at least, risking more closures in the industry. 

A Restaurants Canada survey found nearly 10 per cent of restaurants across the country have closed permanently since March 1, and another 18 per cent will permanently close within a month if the measures, including physical distancing and self-isolation orders, continue.

The association estimates that 800,000 food service jobs have already been lost nationwide due to COVID-19, including 121,500 in B.C.

"The reality is, a growing portion of B.C. restaurateurs are considering permanent closure as they cannot pay their operating costs with no income," said Mark von Schellwitz, Restaurants Canada vice-president for Western Canada. 

The association released results of a national survey of its members Thursday. It found four out of five restaurants nationwide have laid off employees since March 1.

Seven out of 10 operators surveyed said they would consider cutting even more employees if the crisis measures continue, according to the survey.

"Urgent additional relief is required to help these businesses survive or there will be fewer jobs for the thousands of temporarily laid-off restaurant employees to return to once social-distancing measures are lifted," said von Schellwitz.

B.C.'s food-service industry contributes $15 billion to the province's economy, equivalent to five per cent of B.C.'s GDP.

The Restaurants Canada survey was conducted March 25-29. The national association received a total of 655 completed surveys from food-service operators across Canada, representing 13,300 locations (many respondents belonged to multi-unit businesses).

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