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Spreading the Message: ‘Picture life without restaurants’

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We don’t need to tell you that over 10,000 restaurants across Canada have already permanently closed due to the impacts of COVID-19. We don’t need to tell you that at the height of the pandemic an estimated 800,000 jobs were lost due to COVID-19. We don’t need to tell you that restaurants across Canada have invested over $750 million in protective equipment, and we don’t need to tell you that in a recent survey by Restaurants Canada, 72 per cent of those still losing money said they expect to take at least a year to return to profitability. We don’t need to tell you any of this, because you are all living it.

While not every province, city, or region, is at the same stage of reopening, the Canadian foodservice industry has all felt the overwhelming effects of the pandemic, and as the ‘voice of the foodservice industry’, Restaurants Canada is dedicated to bringing these issues to light, not just on a government level, but on a consumer level as well.

Restaurants Canada has recently launched a multi-channel campaign targeting consumers across Canada. The ‘Picture life without restaurants’ campaign objective is to inform the public that without their support, restaurants will continue to close. We aim to illustrate that this will leave gaping holes in the economy, communities, and the lives of Canadians.

Everyone has a story close to their heart that is attached to a foodservice venue. It could be where they got married, met a spouse, or had an incredible birthday. Communities are built around restaurants, cafes, and bakeries. However, only 55 per cent of consumers are aware that a restaurant in their community has permanently closed.

The mission is clear: to ensure and bolster consumer support of the foodservice industry and to compel the public to become the defenders of their local restaurants. This movement is encapsulated in the campaign hashtag – #RestaurantsAreFamily.

“The vast majority of Canadian consumers are concerned that restaurants in their community may not survive and feel that restaurants are an important part of their community,” said Todd Barclay, President and CEO of Restaurants Canada.”We are asking consumers to take a stand and show their support for their local restaurants by dining in (where applicable), getting take out, or purchasing gift cards.”

A pivotal piece of this campaign is the public service announcement set to be released in time for the holiday season. While the PSA continues to emphasize the narrative that restaurants are crucial to our neighbourhoods, it looks to make an emotional connection between consumers and the place foodservice has in their lives. By linking special moments that consumers have had in restaurants, we can make them see that a life without restaurants is an empty one. 

Adding to the PSA, out-of-home ads across major Canadian media publications that ask consumers to “Picture life without restaurants”. The ads are designed to remind consumers how important restaurants are in their lives and think about what life might be like if they were gone. Supporting the ads, Restaurants Canada is building complimentary social media assets and speaking directly to the media through press releases.

These pieces come together in the recently launched website SupportRestaurants.ca. SupportRestaurants.ca is the destination where consumers can pledge their support for their local restaurant. By prompting consumers to share their pledge on their own social media channels, Restaurants Canada is looking to increase consumer confidence and drum up support for local restaurants by leveraging peer-to-peer influence.

Through SupportRestaurants.ca, industry members can also download the ‘Picture life without restaurants’ toolkit. The toolkit provides you various ways you and your business can get involved, but most importantly it’s a call to arms for every member of the foodservice industry to participate in this action. Community participation in this campaign is pivotal to keeping restaurants in the picture.

With downloadable and shareable creative pieces, restaurateurs can use these assets to start a conversation with employees and get them involved. Operators can also leverage creativity to show their support on social media; spreading the word with your customers and the local community.

“The ability to mobilize our voice in local communities provides us with a great advantage and opportunity to get our collective message out,” says Barclay. “I’m asking for all of you to reach out to your staff and customers and help spread the word that together we can keep restaurants in the picture”.

In addition to targeting consumers through the campaign, Restaurants Canada continues to advocate on behalf of the foodservice industry at every level of government. 

According to a recent survey by Restaurants Canada, 87 per cent of Canadians are in agreement that restaurants are doing a good job of keeping customers safe. 92 per cent of Canadians agree that restaurants are an important part of their community. The data supports the idea that the majority of consumers believe that restaurants are safe spaces to enjoy time with their household and chosen bubble but as further rolling government restrictions continue to pummel the industry, our industry continues to be decimated.

As part of this campaign, Restaurants Canada is demanding clearer transmission data to better understand why and how these guidelines have been put in place.

“Since the start of the pandemic, foodservice operators have made major investments in new procedures, training, personal protective equipment, and other means to ensure the highest levels of safety for their staff and patrons,” said Restaurants Canada President and CEO Todd Barclay. “When jurisdictions experience rising cases, restaurant operators deserve to know why, and Government should be doing everything possible to help them avoid the devastating consequences of indoor dining closures so restaurants can continue contributing to the economic and social fabric of their communities.”

In communities across Canada, restaurants play an essential role. They drive our economy by creating jobs for all skill-levels and supporting our farmers and a vast network of suppliers and producers. Restaurant operators and their teams represent the diverse makeup of Canada, not only in the meals they create but also in the people that serve them. Just as importantly, restaurants bring character to neighbourhoods by providing a warm place for people to gather, fulfilling a human need for connection. We need that, now more than ever.

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