Alberta Politics
Where’s the beef? A scene from Wendy’s Restaurants famous advertisement (Photo: Screenshot).

Where’s the beef? Smells like what Restaurants Canada is serving you is nothing but baloney!

Posted on February 22, 2019, 8:00 am
5 mins

“Definition of Baloney: a large smoked, seasoned sausage made of various meats.”

Where’s the beef?

In an opinion piece in the Calgary Herald last week, Restaurants Canada claimed that “a perfect storm of tax increases and painful policy changes … have worsened conditions for restaurants over the past four years.”

Alberta restaurant receipts: never bigger, never better (Chart: ATB Financial).

This was part of a campaign opposing Alberta’s $15-per-hour minimum wage, as well as the NDP Government that brought it in, that was being launched by the restaurant industry lobby group. The Toronto-based national organization has registered with Elections Alberta as a third-party advertiser in the upcoming Alberta provincial election.

The op-ed story in the Herald claimed that restaurant owners have few options but to cut staff or raise prices – “neither being viable solutions for most small businesses.”

Opposition Leader Jason Kenney soon jumped aboard, backsliding on a previous pledge he’d made to leave the $15 minimum in place if he were elected, suggesting instead he would reintroduce lower differential minimum wages for young people, liquor servers and the disabled.

As was noted here at the time, this all seemed odd, since a Statistics Canada report last fall indicated that despite the recession, the problems in the oilpatch, and the much-complained-about polices of Premier Rachel Notley’s NDP, Alberta’s restaurants were breaking records for the volume of their receipts.

“Higher priced menu items will do little to dissuade Albertans from eating at their favourite restaurants,” predicted the economists at ATB Financial, the Edmonton-based banking institution, in an analysis of the StatsCan findings last September.

Well, maybe things have changed since then, a fair-minded person might wonder.

But new numbers are now in and, while things have indeed changed, they’ve changed for the better from the perspective of the restaurant industry.

Spending in Alberta restaurants set a new record in December, with restaurant and bar receipts rising to $810 million that month. December’s total was nearly a full 1 per cent higher than November’s, which at $803-million was also an all-time record, the Statistics Canada figures show.

Restaurant and bar receipts for the full year last year in Alberta were up 2.2 per cent over those of 2017.

“Compared to other provinces, Albertans continued to spend the second most on meals and drinks outside the home,” ATB Financial said in its latest analysis of the industry’s receipts. “The average Albertan spent close to $190 at restaurants or bars in December. British Columbia remains in the Number One spot with spending at $213 per person. The Canadian average was $167.”

In the analysis, published yesterday, ATB Financial’s economists were careful to note this time that “while it’s a good sign that sales reached a new record, this only tells us that revenue is rising. It says nothing about how profitable Alberta’s restaurants and bars are after expenses are considered.”

But don’t forget what they said last fall about the likely continued willingness of Albertans to pay more for food outside the home.

The obvious inference from these facts from Canada’s reputable national statistics agency is that the timing of Restaurants Canada’s campaign was not dictated by hard times in the Alberta restaurant sector but by political considerations, specifically the hope they can held defeat a government that has made a higher priority of fair treatment for the working poor than profits for the fast-food industry.

Contrary to Restaurants Canada’s spin, notwithstanding some higher costs, it seems likely times for Alberta restaurateurs have never been better.

That aroma from the kitchen? Smells like baloney, not beef.

5 Comments to: Where’s the beef? Smells like what Restaurants Canada is serving you is nothing but baloney!

  1. Farmer Dave

    February 22nd, 2019

    The restaurant industry sounds much like the truckers who went to Ottawa to protest the bad economy they were in. I was listening to a radio show where a trucker was complaining about the bad economy and when asked if he attended a certain truckers rally, in this province, he responded saying he was far to busy trucking and couldn’t attend (It appeared the economy was good for him but bad for everyone else in that industry).

  2. Jerrymacgp

    February 22nd, 2019

    And, in fact, Albertans, and all Canadians, would be healthier if we ate out less often anyway … one of the recommendations in the new Canada’s Food Guide is “cook more often”, meaning less pre-packaged, take-out & restaurant food, as one measure to reduce the prevalence of serious chronic diseases in Canada.

  3. Sask Dave

    February 22nd, 2019

    I have investments in two national restaurant brands and both are doing very well and paying attractive dividends so any suggestion that they are hurting because they have to pay fair wages is just political spin.

  4. Donald Wiwad

    February 23rd, 2019

    Restaurants Canada and Kenney claim conditions for restaurants have worsened; To say a sheep has five legs doesn’t make it so.

  5. David

    February 24th, 2019

    I would think if anything the supposedly slower Alberta struggling economy would be a wash for restaurant owners. Yes, it might mean high end restaurants are not doing as well, but one would think they would be the ones most able to pay their staff above minimum wage. If anything I think there would also be shift in where customers are going to and the winners would be fast food or casual dining places. These were the places struggling the most to find staff when the economy here was booming the most. Of course, the Federal Conservatives helpfully allowed them to hire tons of temporary foreign workers, until the abuse of that program became apparent and even Kenney had to crack down on that a bit. As I recall, for a while they were aiming their predictions of doom and gloom at Kenney, but somehow Tim Hortons and the rest managed to survive that. Now, the Alberta labour market is not so tight so places do not have close early as they predicted at that time.

    Interestingly, despite all the economic all the doom and gloom coming from some quarters is Alberta, we still continue to have way above average wages and the unemployment rate has come down significantly in the last two years. I think one of the reasons there is so much whining from some, is that somehow during the long boom expectations of what is normal became distorted particularly for some in the business community when it seemed so easy to make a quick buck. We may not be in as good of a place as we were when oil prices were double the current level, but I don’t think those times are coming back any time soon. However as average restaurant receipts also shows, Alberta is really not in as bad place as some would like to spin it for political or industry lobbying reasons.


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