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Canadians spending more on eating out

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From fast food joints to fine dining, the popularity of eating out has created a surge in food services. We are both eating out more often and spending more of our income on restaurant meals. In 2003, Canadian households spent an average of $1,487 on food purchased from restaurants, a 27% increase from 1997.

In 2004, sales from food services—a wide range of businesses that includes restaurants, cafeterias, street vendors, caterers and drinking places—totalled nearly $37 billion. Despite increased sales, profit margins declined from 5.8% in 2001 to 3.3% in 2003. The reason for the shrinking profits was that expenses—mainly food and labour costs—were rising faster than revenues.

The food services industry employs more than one million Canadians, and almost one-half of them are aged 15 to 24. In fact, nearly one in five young workers is employed in food services.

Chart: Food services' salesWith the popularity of drive-through, take-out and delivery services, the percentage of meals prepared in restaurants but eaten elsewhere increased to 61% of all food services meals in 2004, up from 53% in 1994.

Some more facts and figures about food services:

  • On average, Canadian households visit a restaurant for a meal or snack 520 times a year.
  • More than 90,000 food services and drinking places operate in Canada—about one for every 350 Canadians.
  • Canadian households spend an average of 30% of their food budget on food services, compared with 42% for American households.
  • The average check size at a restaurant is $6.12, including taxes but excluding tips.
  • The most popular food and beverage at Canadian restaurants are french fries and coffee.