Toronto, May 17, 2021 — It has been over a year since the COVID-19 global pandemic began and the Canadian foodservice industry, one of the business sectors most impacted by restrictions, has had to learn to adapt. In the quarter ending March 2021, keeping in mind that the global pandemic was declared in mid-March of last year, total foodservice traffic in Canada was down -9% compared to same quarter year ago when visits were down -11% versus prior year, reports The NPD Group. Although there is improvement from last year, it’s also important to note that since the first quarter of 2019 through the first quarter of 2021, 326,000 foodservice visits (or orders) have been lost, according to NPD’s continual tracking of the Canadian foodservice industry.   

The quick service segment, which prior to the pandemic was already equipped to efficiently handle off-premises operations, like carry-out and drive-thru, ended the first quarter of this year with traffic down -4% in the quarter compared to the same period year ago when visits were down -11%. Full service restaurants, which rely primarily on dine-in visits and bore the brunt of the pandemic restrictions, have adapted this past year developing more off-premises services and their own digital ordering platforms. Even with these efforts, full service restaurant visits were down -33% compared to an -18% decline in the first quarter of 2020 versus the same period in 2019.   

Recovery for the full service segment will depend on the restaurant behaviors of consumers, ages 55 and above once restrictions are lifted. This age group has declined the most in dine-in foodservice visits during the pandemic while also growing the fastest in their digital ordering habits. Meanwhile, at the other end of the age spectrum, the under 18 age group is growing the fastest across most restaurant segments. This points to their availability since they have fewer activities, fewer health concerns, and the transfer of school lunches to restaurant lunches as well as their digital activity.

“While the recovery for Canadian foodservice industry remains elusive, there are signs of hope from around the world,” says Vince Sgabellone, NPD foodservice industry analyst. “In markets where on-premises dining has returned, such as in the U.S. and some Asian markets, so too have the customers. We just need to be patient for a little while longer.”