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TORONTO — While there is no shortage of challenges facing foodservice operators, Restaurants Canada is focusing on three key issues for the coming year.

Restaurants Canada president Shanna Munro explained the organization is concentrating its government lobbying efforts on pending changes to marketing for youth, sodium limits and reviews of labour code.

“We want to be present at the table,” Munro said. “We want to influence our policy makers, but more importantly, we want to educate them on the importance of the decision they make and how it impacts our industry.”

Federal Minister of Health Jane Philpott has been mandated with introducing restrictions on commercial marketing of unhealthy food and beverage products to children. Restaurants Canada is working with a food product coalition to study the economic impacts of the mandate, and highlight the “potentially unintended impact” regulatory changes could have on foodservice brands.

“It’s a very broad statement. Think about the mascots that many of the brands use; they may be at risk,” Munro said. “This could be a detriment to some of the brands and how they market to youth today.”

In 2010, the federal government created voluntary reduction targets in sodium for food products. Munro warns that new targets are in the works.

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“You can expect the name and shame for brands that exceed those targets, so beware,” she said. “Our key message is to deliver to the government the progress that has been made, as it relates to sodium reduction.”

In Ontario, the provincial government is in the process of reviewing its labour code. The Changing Workplaces Review is looking at all aspects of employment, including sick pay, overtime, joining unions and an employers’ responsibility to contract employees.

As well, sectoral bargaining is a recurring suggestion, which would see multiple employers at different companies negotiate with one union. Munro said Alberta is hearing similar recommendations.

“It’s part of a long wish list for organized labour,” Munro said. “We are working with a coalition of employer groups and lobbying both governments to prevent these provisions from being adopted in the future.”

A top-growing segment

Although facing hurdles, foodservice sales in Canada are projected to reach $83.8 billion in 2017, an 85 per cent increase since 2000.

“This is not only because of a strong economy, rise in disposable income or growing population, but because more and more Canadians are relying on foodservice for their needs,” said Restaurants Canada’s senior economist Chris Elliott, who noted foodservice is a top-growing segment and employer within Canada’s economy.

Elliott explained surveying Canadians has found dining out is the Number 1 way consumers find time to spend with friends and family.

“We also found out a lot of Canadians don’t want to cook or don’t have time to cook. There’s even a growing share saying they don’t know how to cook.”


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