Manitobans least satisfied with dining experience, survey shows, as restaurant costs continue to rise

As the price to eat out goes up, a new survey is showing Manitobans are the most unsatisfied in the country when it comes to how much they are paying to dine at a restaurant. Edward Djan has more.

Restaurants are calling for a bit of understanding as new data show Manitobans feel they aren’t getting their money’s worth when going out to eat.

Peter Andromidas, the owner of Johnny’s Marion Restaurant, plans on raising his menu prices at the beginning of 2024 as the cost of running his restaurant continues to go up.

“I’d hate to be starting today. I don’t think my chances would be good if I were to open up a business today,” said Andromidas.

“The wages are going up, the food cost is going up, even the cost of doing business. The transactions — having to deal with the credit and debit card companies — those fees are going up too.”

Johnny’s Marion Restaurant is a family business that has been serving its customers for 47 years.

While the business continues to operate thanks to its loyal customers, Andromidas admits he has been seeing a change in how many people come in to eat, as his menu prices go up.

“We haven’t seen some regular customers for a while because I’m sure the prices have gone out of their price range.”

Exterior of Johnny’s Restaurant Marion, Nov. 8, 2023. (CityNews)

A new survey from Dalhousie University’s Agri-Food Analytics lab shows about 81 per cent of respondents noticed changes in menu pricing.

About 80 per cent of the survey’s respondents said prices have affected where they dine out.

“This (survey) is the first time actually, it’s an exploratory study. We wanted to know exactly how people feel, and of course, the context this year is all about inflation,” said Sylvain Charlebois, the lab’s director.

Manitoba: lowest satisfaction rate in Canada

The survey also looked at how satisfied customers felt when eating at a restaurant based on how much they spent.

Manitoba had the lowest satisfaction rate across the country, with only 15 per cent of respondents either saying they were satisfied or very satisfied.

“Chains are going to be fine. If you look at the balance sheet of chains like McDonald’s and Burger King, fast food is going to be just fine, and coffee shops as well,” said Charlebois. “I’m more concerned about the independent operators who are paying more money to rent their space, they are paying more for labour.”

“We’ve seen menu substitutions, we’ve seen supply chain challenges. Right now, about 50 per cent of our industry is operating at a loss,” added Jennifer Henshaw, the vice-president of Prairies and the North for Restaurants Canada.

As restaurants still recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, the industry is hoping some of the supports restaurants in other provinces receive could be replicated in Manitoba.

“Other provinces have wholesale liquor pricing, where we don’t,” said Shaun Jeffrey, the executive director and CEO of the Manitoba Restaurant and Foodservices Association. “Other provinces provide grants for vandalism and theft deterrence, we don’t. We continue to petition and advocate for the government to get these programs.”

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