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Restaurant industry hoped for support in Alberta’s latest budget

Some industry advocates are disappointed to have been left out of Alberta’s recent budget after years of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and rising inflation.

Melissa Crudo is the COO and owner of Amore Pasta and Black Pearl Seafood Bar. She thought that with the public health measures ever changing, the pandemic would be the toughest challenge she would have to face.

“The only thing we’re struggling with right now is inflation,” she said. “But we’re trying to get by as best we can.”

Crudo says they constantly evaluate their business and spending as utility costs increase.

“[We’re] We really focus on the food cost and go into a deeper analysis of each ingredient that goes into our products,” said Crudo. “And we don’t want to pass the buck on to customers just because we’re struggling with inflation.”

“There’s so much overhead that not a lot of people put two and two together,” added Crudo.

Both restaurants have also noticed different spending habits from customers as the economy changes.

“We find that not many people go out and spend that much on alcohol,” she added.

To adapt to changing demands, Amore Pasta launched a pizza product last month and continues to sell gift boxes they first offered when in-person dining was suspended during the pandemic.

“We introduced new product lines to introduce ourselves to new customers,” said Crudo. “Every cent means something. It might not seem like a big deal on a day-to-day basis, but when it adds up over a year, it’s a big sum.”

Many bars and restaurants are facing similar or worse situations, said Mark von Schellwitz of Restaurants Canada.

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During the pandemic, many restaurants have taken on debt that they are now struggling to repay, he added, as food costs have risen about 15 percent and utility bills, property taxes and other utility costs have also skyrocketed.

“We still have a lot of restaurants in Alberta that are still in a really fragile state,” von Schellwitz said. “We have half of our members who are losing money or are barely breaking even, and many of them are concerned they are not earning enough income due to labor shortages.”

He had hoped to see more help from the provincial government in last week’s budget, specifically a tax cut for small businesses or help to fill vacancies in the industry, which employs nearly 18,000 people — 44 percent more than the average industry pay scale.

“To boost growth, small business taxes should be cut more,” von Schellwitz said.

Charlotte Taillon, press secretary for Treasury Secretary Travis Toews, told CTV News Edmonton that eliminating the fuel tax and continuing electricity and natural gas rebates will help lower operating costs for businesses.

“Budget 2023 continues [Alberta’s] Advantage by keeping the corporate tax rate low to support our growing businesses and by keeping our personal tax advantage intact to both attract and retain provincial talent,” added Taillon.

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