Toronto, ON, May 15, 2020 – As the country continues to grapple with widespread closures and social isolation restrictions due to COVID-19, the Canadian Foodservice industry experienced a -32% decline in traffic for March 2020 (five weeks ending April 7, 2020) reports The NPD Group. The decline is a direct result of the on-premise dining restrictions that were implemented throughout the country in mid-March. Restaurant operators have been forced to ramp up off-premise modes such as carry-out, delivery, and drive-thru in an effort offset the losses during this period of unprecedented disruption.

The impact was felt most in the full service restaurant space, where traffic was down -54% during March 2020. The QSR segment was also negatively impacted as traffic slipped by -27%, according to NPD’s CREST®, which tracks daily restaurant usage across Canada.

While on-premise dinning is no longer an option, consumers have been quick to adopt off-premise dinning modes such as delivery, takeout, and drive-thru. Delivery channel orders grew by +22% in March compared to a year ago, with digital orders accounting for 72% of total delivery traffic. Third party service providers accounted for almost 8 out of 10 of these digital delivery orders. While this increase is significant, the delivery channel represented only 4% of overall restaurant traffic prior to COVID-19. Delivery share has now increased to 8%, but it still represents a relatively small portion of overall volume, and as a result, will likely not be enough to offset losses in the broader market.

“The impact of COVID-19 on the Canadian restaurant industry has been wide-spread and immediate,” said Vince Sgabellone, NPD foodservice industry analyst. “These declines represent a loss of over $2 billion in restaurant sales and over 200 million customer visits. The situation is very 2 challenging, particularly for smaller operators and independent restaurants, many of which have since made the decision to shut their doors permanently.”

With all but essential workers sheltering at home, and school and shopping trips effectively cut to zero, the lunch daypart was impacted the most during this time, declining by -39%. On the other hand, the number of restaurant meals consumed at home has increased significantly and now makes up the largest share of the market at 44%.

“This ongoing trend of people working, schooling, shopping and entertaining from home could have long term implications for restaurants since many rely on drop in visits, especially at lunch, in order to sustain their operations,” said Sgabellone.