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As B.C. restaurants rebound, tipping tapers among patrons

B.C. restaurants are on the mend from pandemic restrictions, data from Statistics Canada shows. However, when it comes to tipping, a new poll suggests Canadians have less of an appetite.
Mario Trejier displays the tipping options on his POS system at Vancouver's Mario's Coffee Express.

B.C. restaurants are showing an uptick in revenues since the COVID-19 pandemic struck in 2020, while patrons appear to be growing tired of so-called “tip-flation.”

Statistics Canada reported Thursday that while the pandemic continued to affect restaurants, pubs and food services into 2021, revenue for such establishments has inched closer to pre-pandemic levels.

In B.C., operating revenue went from $13.4 billion in 2019, down to $10.5 billion in 2020 and then hit $12.2 billion in 2021.

Ontario (+13.4 per cent), Quebec (+17.7 per cent) and British Columbia (+16.8 per cent) had the largest sales increases in dollar terms in 2021 and made up three-quarters of sales across the country, according to Statistics Canada.­

“Since the onset of the pandemic, full-service restaurants have contributed to the majority of the decline in operating revenue in the food services and drinking places subsector,” the federal data collector said in a report.

In 2021, restaurant sales bounced back 18 per cent to $28.2 billion, but were still about 21 per cent lower than sales in 2019. Operating expenses in this industry increased 18 per cent to $28.1 billion. This resulted in a 0.5 per cent operating profit margin, according to the report.

Across the country, the industry continued to experience strong e-commerce sales, although not as high as in 2020. Before the pandemic, in 2019, food service and drinking places billed 4.7 per cent of their tabs via e-commerce but that figure rose to 15 per cent in 2020 before declining to 11.8 per cent in 2021.

Meanwhile, Angus Reid Institute said Thursday that “Canadians have reached a tipping point when it comes to gratuities” at restaurants and pubs and any other tip-based establishment.

As a result of more places asking for tips and requests for tips becoming greater, 59 per cent of Canadians polled by Angus Reid said they now prefer a “service included” model, which would see an end of tipping and higher base wages for employees. This rate is up from 54 per cent in 2016.

And, four in five Canadians say too many places are asking for tips today.

British Columbians are the most likely to report “tip creep” (74 per cent) and “tip-flation” (73 per cent) whereas Atlantic Canadians are the least likely to say they’re being prompted for an increased tip (42 per cent), stated the pollster.

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