Saskatchewan. restaurant sales top pre-pandemic levels, StatCan says

Saskatchewan restaurants are enjoying a busy spring and summer, with food and beverage sales surpassing pre-pandemic levels, according to recent Statistics Canada data.

Canadian sales in food services and drinking places rose 3% for the month of May, a report released on Tuesday showsas the country recorded $7.8 billion in sales, the highest since the start of the pandemic.

Sales in Saskatchewan also steadily increasing since early 2022. In May, the province recorded seasonally adjusted sales of $183 million for the month, about $20 million more than May 2019.

“We’ve seen sales go back to about that pre-pandemic level of three summers ago in 2019, so it’s great to see with all the events that are back, it kind of started when the Cathedral Arts Festival week, this last week of May,” said Matt Dean, owner of Cathedral Social Hall.

In May 2021, sales were around $150 million for food services and drinking places, according to Statistics Canada.

Jim Bence, president and CEO of Hospitality Saskatchewan, attributes the increase in sales to the warmer weather and the need to socialize.

“I think there are a lot of people who are really looking forward to having a great summer and I think we’re seeing that come to fruition,” he said.

Dean said in-person sales have increased and take-out has actually decreased since the weather has warmed.

“I appreciate the support from all of our guests as we know times are a little tougher with inflation and prices going up all the time,” Bence said.

Maria Lila, manager of the 13th Avenue Food and Coffee House, agrees.

“We’re fine, even with rising prices and everything, we’re all struggling post-pandemic,” she said.

However, as sales increase, staffing issues have become a problem for the restaurant industry.

“We’ve definitely noticed some challenges with labor shortages,” Dean said. “It’s a bit more difficult trying to find new employees and retain them, especially in the back of the house, so it’s been more difficult in the last six months.”

Lila agreed, saying that while her team currently has 10 to 12 employees, to respond to demands, she needs 15.

Hospitality Saskatchewan has seen the same need in the industry.

“On saskjobs.ca, so it’s only one place for employers to post, so right now when I looked at it 10 minutes ago there were about 3,700 jobs available in the hospitality and tourism,” Bence said.

Although the year was up $30 million over last year in sales, inflation makes those numbers less impressive.

“Just with the prices, inflation has really exceeded a lot of those profit margins, especially in food and beverages, hasn’t it?” Ben explained. “Because those margins are already so thin, it just becomes extremely difficult.”

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