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Local restaurant industry sees big boost thanks to delivery apps, busy holiday shoppers

(iStock Photo)

The busy shopping season is being welcomed by the local restaurant industry

Restaurants have seen increased business due to the busy holiday season, but many are being hit by a labour shortage too

BC Restaurant and Food Services Association says food delivery apps are also adding to the restaurant business

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – It’s expected to be a busy few days as shoppers flock to malls trying to find that perfect gift — good news for the local restaurant industry.

The bustle of last-minute shoppers this holiday season is welcome news for restaurants, with more people deciding to end their shopping adventures with a meal out.

BC Restaurant and Food Services Association President and CEO Ian Tostenson says so far, many local eateries have been feeling the effect of the busy season.

“People go shopping, they go to drink a glass of wine or eat or do something afterward. So it’s been really good for us,” he says. “The industry has been extremely busy this season, which is great. And not without its challenges, of course, but it’s been really good.”

Those challenges include a labour shortage, as well as more people relying on online shopping to avoid trips to crowding shopping centers.

“Given how busy we are, we have the ongoing labor shortage in our kitchens. We estimate we’re about 15-to-20,000 people short in British Columbia. We’re addressing that through a variety of measures, you know, some by reaching into our domestic workforce, but the problem we have is that it’s a demographic issue,” Tostenson says. “We just simply don’t have enough people in British Columbia to fill those jobs.”

When it comes to those people who rely on online shopping to avoid busy malls, Tostenson says the holidays usually allow consumers to spend more time with friends, family or co-workers, and that impact is being felt at local restaurants.

“I think we’re still seeing a lot of incremental sales of people staying afterward going for a glass of wine, hanging out with their office mates doing those kinds of things. So I think … there’s no question that the online experience … will have some impact.”

And for those who prefer to stay at home instead of venturing out, the use of food delivery apps like Skip the Dishes and Uber Eats has skyrocketed.

“One of the big trends that we saw this year, was about 20 to 25 per cent of the amount of sales in restaurants dedicated to third party delivery,” he says. “So that’s been a major part. So, people stay at home and when they stay home, we can cover ourselves because they can order through the apps.”

Tostensen adds with the imminent arrival of ride hailing services like Lyft and Uber, the association is expecting an even greater demand on local restaurants.