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Toronto restaurants facing 'disturbing' decline in guest counts


In-person dining has been on the decline for three straight months in Toronto, a “disturbing” trend that’s showing no sign of slowing in September, according to new OpenTable data.

The numbers show restaurants saw a nine per cent decline in diners taking a seat to eat at Toronto establishments already this month.

The reservation platform tracked online, phone, and walk-in reservations in 2022 and 2023 to see how current numbers compare to a year ago.

This trend has been sloping downward throughout the summer, stooping below 2022 levels since June – typically a bustling time for the embattled industry.

Toronto's dining decline was not isolated, but rather, echoed across the country. So far in September, the volume of in-person dining across Canada has dropped three per cent.

“Hearing this about the guest counts is disturbing because it's coming at the same time as they're facing a lot of other challenges,” Tracey Macgregor, vice president of Restaurants Canada in Ontario, said, nodding to the rising costs of food and ongoing pandemic recovery as case in point.

This graph measures the weekly change in seated diners for 2023 vs. 2022 in Toronto (Source: OpenTable).

“They're trying not to pass these on in their full entirety to customers because of things like declining numbers,” she added.

For Siva Sathasivam, the owner of Uncle Tony’s, that has meant scaling back on his lunch hours, with workers only coming to downtown offices a couple of days a week and residents moving outside of the city due to skyrocketing rents. Plus, over the last three years, he said his costs have more than doubled.

Siva Sathasivam, the owner of Uncle Tony’s in downtown Toronto, speaks to CTV News Toronto.

“I cut down the staff and I do mostly everything myself. That’s the only way, and I limit the hours to survive in business,” Sathasivam said.

“Some lunches I work myself with just a small helper to survive,” he said.

It’s a constant uphill battle, in desperate need of government supports, but restaurant owners are a “resilient bunch,” Macgregor said.

“They're coming in, they're showing up every day and meeting those challenges.” Top Stories

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