A Year into the Pandemic the Canadian Restaurant Industry Is Learning to Pivot and Adapt Despite Significant Visit Loss

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Although the Canadian restaurant industry has improved since the pandemic began, the industry has lost 326,000 visits/orders from the first quarter of 2019 through the first quarter of 2021, reports The NPD Group.

“In markets where on-premises dining has returned, such as in the U.S. and some Asian markets, so too have the customers. We in Canada just need to be patient for a little while longer,” says Vince Sgabellone, Canada foodservice industry analyst, The NPD Group.

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 the same quarter year ago when visits were down -11% versus the prior year, reports The NPD Group. Although there is an improvement from last year, it’s also important to note that from 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 before 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 to develop 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 the 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.”

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About The NPD Group
NPD offers data, industry expertise, and prescriptive analytics to help our clients grow their businesses in a changing world. Over 2,000 companies worldwide rely on us to help them measure, predict, and improve performance across all channels, including brick-and-mortar, e-commerce, and B2B. We have services in 19 countries worldwide, with operations spanning the Americas, Europe, and APAC. Practice areas include apparel, appliances, automotive, beauty, books, B2B technology, consumer technology, e-commerce, fashion accessories, food consumption, foodservice, footwear, home, home improvement, juvenile products, media entertainment, mobile, office supplies, retail, sports, toys, and video games. For more information, visit npd.com. Follow us on Twitter: @npdgroup.

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