With a spring election coming up in Alberta, restaurateurs from across the province are joining forces to make sure their voice is heard. Restaurants Canada is leading the conversation with Restaurant Realities — a non-partisan campaign that is encouraging constructive engagement around:
- The perfect storm of operational challenges that recent government policies have created for foodservice businesses against the backdrop of Alberta’s already weak economy.
- Policy recommendations that Restaurants Canada has shared with all of Alberta’s major political parties to improve realities for restaurants across the province.
Restaurants Canada shared 16 recommendations with all parties on Jan. 14 and invited them to share their solutions with restaurateurs at two campaign launch events: one in Edmonton on Feb. 12 and another in Calgary on Feb. 13.
As election day approaches, we encourage everyone who cares about Alberta’s foodservice community to get informed at restaurantrealities.ca and reach out to local candidates about the key issues and recommended solutions. You can also join the online conversation and share your story with the hashtag #RestaurantRealities.
We are stronger together and your support will make a difference.
Below is a recap of the campaign’s first week.
Launch Event in Edmonton
Over 120 restaurant operators packed the Quartz Ballroom at the Matrix Hotel on Feb. 12 to discuss how the province’s next government can improve restaurant realities in Alberta.
We were joined by Alberta Party Leader Stephen Mandel and UCP Leader Jason Kenney. Both party leaders applauded our industry’s contributions to communities across Alberta and spoke fondly of their past experiences working and dining in restaurants. They also touched on some of the policy recommendations that the Restaurant Realities campaign has put forward and pledged to work with Restaurants Canada on solutions.
Mandel expressed concern with how negatively the restaurant sector has been impacted by recent government policies and said small businesses need more support.
Kenney expressed particular support for the merits of a training wage, saying it could help reverse the troubling decline in workplace participation among Alberta’s youth. He also pledged to introduce an “Open for Business Act”, which would repeal rules related to statutory holiday pay that are incompatible with the realities of the restaurant sector and return surpluses in the Workers’ Compensation Board accident fund to employers.
NDP Labour Minister Christina Gray was scheduled to speak too, but cancelled the day before. Restaurants Canada was told the minister had to attend to a pressing matter. But at an afternoon press conference, Gray said she deliberately skipped the morning event, as reported by the Financial Post.
This was a disappointment to Restaurants Canada and its diverse membership, which wants to know how all parties plan to help the foodservice community turn the corner.
According to data from Statistics Canada, Alberta’s foodservice sales growth led the nation between 2004 and 2014, but has ranked second to last of all the provinces since 2015. This is in part due to a weak provincial economy, but also because of a perfect storm of tax increases and painful policy changes that have worsened conditions for restaurants over the past four years.
Policies that were intended to boost earnings and reduce the cost of living for Albertans have instead resulted in a foodservice crisis, including:
- A loss of more than 10,000 foodservice and accommodation jobs.
- A decline in the average number of workers per unit from 13 to 11.7.
- A 9.1 per cent drop in average sales per unit (adjusted for menu inflation).
Our industry’s call for action was heard loud and clear following the launch event in Edmonton of the Restaurant Realities campaign, thanks to extensive coverage from a wide variety of local and national media organizations.
Launch Event in Calgary
Over 60 restaurant operators joined us for our second Restaurant Realities event at Blink Restaurant & Bar in Calgary on Feb. 13.
Liberal Party Leader David Khan unfortunately could not attend, but he extended his apologies and wishes for a follow-up meeting with Restaurants Canada to discuss the campaign’s 16 recommendations.
This event also received extensive media coverage, on TV and radio, as well as in print and online.
Campaign Website and Video Launch
Another sign that Restaurant Realities is off to a strong start: restaurantrealities.ca was visited more than 1,500 times by more than 1,300 people by Feb. 15 and the campaign video was viewed more than 2,000 times in just two days!
We look forward to sharing more updates as the campaign unfolds.
How to Raise Your Voice about Restaurant Realities in Alberta
If you have any questions or would like more information, you can get in touch with Mark von Schellwitz, Restaurants Canada Vice President, Western Canada, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-800-387-5649 ext. 6500.