Atlantic Canada’s independent voice on economic issues

Restaurants & Bars

Economic Impacts of COVID-19 on Atlantic Restaurants & Bars
Updated July 31 with May sales data 

  • All Atlantic provinces closed in-room dining and bars by the third week of March 2020, restricting sales to take-out and drive-thru. Nationally, 42% of establishments closed at some point in May compared to 56% in April.
  • Atlantic restaurant and bar sales fell 42% in May compared to May last year, a loss of about $145 million in revenues. This follows a 57% year over year decline in April, a loss of over $200 million.
  • After a steep drop of 44% in Atlantic employment in accommodation and food services between February and April, employment increased 34% from April to June. However, hours worked in June were still 17% below the previous year.
  • Restaurants and bars began reopening dine-in services with physical distancing requirements on May 8 in New Brunswick, May 22 in PEI, June 5 in Nova Scotia, and June 8 in Newfoundland and Labrador. On June 26 Nova Scotia allowed establishments to operate at 100% capacity, up from 50% as long as physical distancing is maintained.
  • While the recovery is underway it will take time to reach previous levels of activity as local consumers remain cautious and no international visitors are likely in 2020. The Atlantic bubble will provide a modest boost to tourism activity, including restaurants.
  • Restaurants Canada reported that 6 out of 10 restaurants were operating at a loss in early June. Some restaurants in Atlantic Canada have delayed opening. Some have shifted to online catering services. Others have permanently closed. 

Note: Some in-room dining restaurants have started doing delivery or aligned with delivery partners (Uber Eats and Skip the Dishes) and moved their sales platform online to continue operations during the pandemic.


Quick Facts

  • There are over 5,300 business locations across the region in the Atlantic food services and drinking places industry, including restaurants and bars, take-outs, drive-thrus and caterers.
  • The Atlantic food services and drinking places industry employed almost 66,000 in 2018. 
  • Average weekly earnings in the industry were over $370 in 2019, 61% below the all-industry average.
  • About 36% of locations employ less than 5 employees (including self-employed); About 94% of locations employ less than 50 people. 
  • Total Atlantic food services and drinking places industry sales were $4.2 billion in 2019.


Updated July 3, 2020


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