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B.C. food-services spending growth outpaces inflation, lags rest of Canada

Sales at food-services and drinking places were up 7.26 per cent in B.C. in November
Vera's Burger Shack CEO Gerald Tritt samples a mushroom burger at his expanding burger chain

While many restaurants in B.C. are finding it challenging to operate, given inflation and scarce labour, the good news is that residents are willing to increase their spending in the province's eateries.

Statistics Canada today released data showing that British Columbians spent nearly $1.27 billion at restaurants and bars in November, up 7.26 per cent from the same month one year ago. That jump outpaced the province's 3.2 per cent overall inflation rate in November

The rise may mean that restaurant owners have been able to pass on a higher than expected amount of their own increased costs for products, labour and rent. It may also mean that B.C. residents are going out for dinner more often. 

While the jump in spending in B.C. is significant, it was below the 8.77-per-cent increase in spending at restaurants and bars, which took place Canadawide, to nearly $7.56 billion in November.

Many B.C. restaurants are said to be teetering on the brink of going out of business. Between 10 and 14 per cent of the more than 15,000 restaurants in the province could close as a result of the federal government not extending its deadline for repaying CEBA loans, BC Restaurant and Foodservices Association CEO Ian Tostenson recently told BIV.

His organization last week launched a new campaign dubbed "Save B.C. Restaurants," which was aimed at raising awareness of the challenges facing B.C. restaurants and foodservice vendors.

“The last few years have been incredibly tough on restaurants in B.C.,” Tostenson said. “Pandemic debt, skyrocketing inflation, labour shortages, cost pressures. Many of these businesses are holding on by the skin of their teeth.”

Some positive signs for the sector, however, are that some B.C. restaurant franchisors are expanding. BIV reported last week that the 10-location Vera's Burger Shack has hatched a partnership with an investor who wants to own and operate three franchised locations in Calgary, according to CEO Gerald Tritt. The 47-location, B.C.-based franchisor Mr. Mikes SteakhouseCasual plans to open four or five franchised locations in 2024: two in B.C. and three in Alberta, its new president, Tony Zidar, told BIV.

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