Toronto, ON October 1, 2020 – As the last regions of the country began to welcome customers back for indoor dining, the double-digit dollar declines the Canadian restaurant industry has experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic eased in August, reports The
NPD Group
. Consumer spending declined by -22% in the month compared to same time year ago and visits to restaurants declined by -19%, although Ontario and Quebec lag the rest of the country, with declines of -21% and -22%, respectively, according to NPD’s CREST®, which tracks daily restaurant usage across Canada.

“For three months now, the Canadian restaurant industry has improved slowly but steadily versus the prior month,” says Vince Sgabellone,
NPD foodservice industry analyst
.  “Traffic losses improved by just two points in August versus July; but these losses are now less than half of what they were at the height of this crisis in April. In my mind, I will call this a victory for the industry.”

Even with dine-in restrictions being lifted, on-premise dining continues to underperform with traffic down -65% in August compared to year ago. These steep declines, which are primarily driven by small chains and independents, account for the total industry visit losses. With most full service restaurants being reliant on on-premise dining, visits to these types of restaurants declined more than twice as much as quick service restaurants, which are more equipped with off-premise services, like drive-thru and carry-out.  

Digital ordering from restaurants has flattened at 12% of total foodservice traffic, similar to July, but 5- points below the height in April. Also, for the first time since the pandemic began, delivery orders did not double versus the same month a year ago, increasing instead by a relatively modest +75%.

“With patio season soon coming to a close and the virus beginning to make a resurgence in many regions through September, it may be reasonable to expect that delivery will once again make a comeback through the fall,” says Sgabellone. “Full service restaurants, in particular, will need to re-double their efforts to attract off-premise customers. Many have begun offering meal kits and cocktail kits for delivery or pickup while others are opening virtual grocery stores to capture a customer base that is cooking more than ever at home. With the holiday season coming up soon, there is still time and opportunity for operators to be a part of the off-premise traffic boom, if they haven’t already joined.”