Delivering Bad News: How many jobs will this pandemic “Take Away?”

By Mathew Viggiani

Are You Being Served?

Of the many, many social privileges we’ve rescinded thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is nothing I miss more than dining out at a sit-down restaurant. It’s the stages of dining that I feel I’ve taken for granted: from the moment you’re greeted and taken to your seat, from perusing the menu and finding something you’ll really enjoy, to the anticipation of seeing your order being brought to the table and finally getting to indulge yourself after the long wait, it’s the little things like that which makes me curse this shutdown for taking them away.
But as much as I miss walking into restaurants, I can’t forget that the restaurants miss seeing people walk in, too. While this pandemic has proved itself to be a boon for delivery services like Doordash and Uber Eats, the loss of foot traffic and inability to serve sit-down customers has taken a big bite out of the bottom line of both local eateries and franchised restaurant chains across Canada.

A recent survey from Restaurants Canada revealed that the Canadian food service sector laid off 800,000 people in March. According to the Financial Post, the survey found that “10% of the country’s 97,500 restaurants, bars and cafés have already permanently closed [and] another 18% said they will be forced to close for good within a month if current conditions continue.” – (

The constant yo-yo of government mandated shutdowns is a huge factor in these statistics. When shopping malls close, the food courts inside them close too, leaving the servers, cooks, and managers behind the counter on the hook for lost wages. When full-service restaurants switch to take out and delivery only, servers lose out on a substantial amount of tip money in the process.
A unemployment tracking project composed by Georgetown University has projected the startling truth about how vulnerable this industry is. Out of 16 industries profiled in this project, “Food, preparation and serving” related industries are the second hardest hit when it comes to the number of jobs lost, only falling behind industries related to “Education, legal, community service, arts, and media.”

Are They Being Served Fairly?

As stated before, the vulnerabilities of the restaurant industry in this perilous time has become ground to gain for online food delivery services. In Canada, the most popular of these services include SkipTheDishes, Uber Eats, and Doordash. Since the onset of the pandemic in mid-March of 2020, the demand for these services has skyrocketed to unprecedented levels.

While this demonstrates that the average Canadian has developed an appetite for convenient dining, these services couldn’t function without the hard work of the couriers and restaurant staff, and both parties are vulnerable to exploitation by way of these booming businesses. DoorDash was the subject of a class action lawsuit by a concerned customer who discovered that the company withholds tips to its drivers, diverting the money away to pay for the “guaranteed minimum” of the order. Uber Eats, along with competitors GrubHub and Postmates, were accused of arranging overly restrictive business contracts with their clients, only advertising restaurants on their app if they allowed prices for indoor diners and takeaway orders to be the same, a practice which increases costs for the former. Finally, SkipTheDishes has the ignominy to receive a grade of “F” from the Better Business Bureau for unresolved complaints regarding compensation and benefits.

Knowing these realities about the industry has made the day where I can return to placing my coat over my chair, and hand over the tip money in person, that more important.

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