Alberta restaurant industry sounds the alarm
Published Wednesday, February 13, 2019 9:15PM MST
Restaurants in Calgary say they are suffering as a result of policy changes by the current government and they’re now asking for support to stay afloat.
In a video campaign, Restaurants Canada says an estimated 10,000 industry jobs have been lost in the past three years thanks to factors like the minimum wage hike and property taxes.
For a very long time, the group says Alberta led the nation when it came to the restaurant industry. But now things have changed.
“I think it’s that perfect storm that we had with the timing of a recession or economic downturn combined with all these operational cost increases that put a real strain on it,” says Mark Von Schellwitz with Restaurants Canada.
He adds that Albertans are still spending quite a bit on eating out, but it’s not as much as before.
“Our growth has been second to last in Canada and our average restaurant sales have gone down by nine percent.”
Leslie Echino, owner and manager of Blink Restaurant and Bar, says there is a bit of frustration across Calgary and Alberta with the way things have gone.
“It’s time that we band together and have a conversation and have a platform where we are able to speak to our leaders and engage.”
Echino says she has seen a lot of ups and downs over the past 11 years she’s owned her establishment, but the past three years have been particularly difficult.
“Abolishing the youth wage was a hard hit. Increasing the minimum wage by 50 percent in three years. Just everything… my garbage removal downtown has gone up by around 170 percent in the past seven years. It’s incrementally costing more.”
She adds that all of the staff at her restaurant, aside from servers, earn over minimum wage but when costs keep on going up, it’s more difficult to come up with that money.
Echino says in order to make ends meet at Blink, she’s had to reduce the number of positions over the past three years.
“I had 30 full-time employees but now I have 23 full-time and two part-time. So when people leave, we’re not filling those positions anymore. Right now, the staff we have might be working more hours or if it’s a quiet lunch, I’m cutting staff. The shifts that are being cut are quite dramatic, especially at slow times.”
Francine Gomes, co-owner of the Cluck and Cleaver, opened up about three years ago and has seen the change in the industry since that time.
“We’re seeing lower volume through the door, probably as a reason of people not spending as much. Everybody across the board has had to raise prices. It’s definitely more expensive.”
She says they had expansion plans in Calgary, but the current situation has forced her to adapt.
“We are looking, unfortunately, at other provinces. We’re looking at another country to see if that even makes sense. It’s definitely slowed down on our expansion plans as well.”
Restaurants Canada also wants to see lower alcohol and youth wages, freezing liquor markup increases and carbon tax rebates.
(With files from Alesia Fieldberg)