COVID and Economics: A Tale of Two Canadas

-by Nourish President Jo-Ann McArthur

I get asked how business during COVID is a lot. The answer is “mixed.”

While some of our clients are having record years, others have been decimated due to the collapse of foodservice under the strain of COVID. Not every industry is feeling the pain equally.

It’s important to understand this pattern holds for Canadians in general. A recent Abacus Data research study shows that there are two Canadas right now. Some folks, mainly in the hospitality industry, suffer while others have more disposable income than ever. Those who maintained their employment income during the pandemic now have extra funds on-hand due to reduced spending on commuting, childcare, travel, and food & beverage outside of the home.

Our traffic patterns, as well as our definition of “place,” have changed. That kitchen is now used for cooking as well as an office and, until recently, a classroom. We’ve moved from summoning our meal or assembling it, to using newfound cooking skills, often as a family activity. McKinsey Canada research finds that cooking at home is the number one activity to increase over this pandemic period, with a +54% net intent.

One of my first vacations beyond my cottage will be to Fogo Island. It’s a beautiful part of Canada to explore, plus I love the way they have reimagined the role of hospitality as a social business and community asset. They employ an Economic Nutrition Certification Mark, showing you exactly what your stay's money goes towards.

Could this be something foodservice adopts? Many restaurants have already lifted the veil on the kitchen, allowing guests to see inside and enhance their experience. Could you share your cost inputs in this way (rent, labour, equipment, merchant fees, etc.) and expose your slim margins to the public?

The cost of COVID-era hospitality is going up with reduced capacity and increased safety costs. Letting your customers know where their money goes should make those with additional discretionary dollars feel better about spending them.

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