Restaurant menus shrunk 25% due to supply chain, pricing issues, data shows

Sandhya Nair, owner of Maurya Indian Restaurants, is pictured at their Hamilton location. She said she sometimes had to go to great lengths to find ingredients for her restaurants.Christopher Katsarov/The Globe and Mail

Restaurant menus have shrunk by an average of 25% during the pandemic, private sales data shows, as business owners have faced high food prices and difficulty obtaining ingredients due to chain issues. supply.

The data comes from Square, a branch of recently renamed technology company Block Inc., which provides a variety of financial products, including point-of-sale systems, to hundreds of thousands of small businesses in Canada.

Square analyzed the number of menu items that were sold solely by their foodservice customers and found that, on average, they offered 31 fewer options to customers, or about 25% less, compared to their menus before. the pandemic. . Items include full meals, beverages and extras.

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Full-service restaurants experienced a larger drop in menu size, 28%, compared to quick-service restaurants, which fell 24%.

Bryan Solar, Square’s restaurant general manager, said the challenges of the pandemic have prompted food establishments to be even more deliberate about their menus.

“When you look at what’s happening with restaurants, they’ve had to really get creative,” Solar said. “They had to find ways to make the margins work.”

Sandhya Nair, owner of Maurya Indian Restaurants, which has six locations in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, said that during the most difficult times of the pandemic, she has had to limit her menu to only items she knows will a customer will order, at the expense of variety.

“I’m going to whittle the total number of items down to all the best-selling items, which I know will sell out for sure,” Ms Nair said. “I keep these items and discard the rest.”

Santosh Manemala prepares an order at a Maurya East Indian restaurant in Dundas, Ont., Jan. 28, 2022.Christopher Katsarov/The Globe and Mail

She said she’s seen a lot of price volatility for her ingredients, like a nine-pack of cauliflowers selling for $60 instead of the usual $25, or a can of garlic for $90 instead of $40. She said she feared an upcoming rise in dairy prices, with the cost of milk expected to rise 8.4% in February.

She said she sometimes had to go to great lengths to find ingredients for her restaurants, sometimes heading to a wholesale terminal in north Toronto at dawn to line up before other shoppers from restaurants.

“You go to the terminal at 5 a.m. and get everything you can,” Ms Nair said. “People who are willing to pay for it, get it.”

Square’s data quantifies an issue that many industry players have been talking about. Restaurants Canada, the national industry group, surveyed 759 of its members this month and found that 56% of table-service restaurants have reduced the number of items on their menu in response to supply disruptions .

Overall, restaurant businesses have recouped much of the revenue they lost in the first year of the pandemic, though they remain slightly below pre-pandemic levels. Statistics Canada announced last week that the sector’s total revenues amounted to $6.4 billion in November, an increase of 36.9% compared to the same month of the previous year. Statscan also noted that restaurants charged 3.8% more for food over the same period.

From Ms Nair’s perspective, a leaner menu has produced a benefit: it means fewer ingredients to store and track. The downside, however, is that customers have fewer options and it can be more difficult to please large groups, such as a family ordering together whose members may have very different tastes. Overall, she says, she would prefer to have more items available to appeal to a wider customer base.

“When you shorten the menu, inventory management and storage becomes easy,” Ms Nair said. “But from a restaurant perspective, I wouldn’t say that’s a good thing.”

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