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Restaurant industry hoped for support in Alberta's latest budget


Some industry advocates are disappointed that after years of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and rising inflation, they were left out of Alberta's latest budget.

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

"The only thing we're battling with right now is inflation," she said. "But we're trying to manage as best as we can."

Crudo says they're constantly evaluating their business and expenses as supply costs rise.

"[We're] really focusing on food costs and going into a deeper analysis of every ingredient that goes into our products," Crudo said. "And we don't want to pass the buck onto the customers just because we're battling with inflation."

"There's so many overhead costs that not many people put two and two together," Crudo added.

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

"We find that not a lot of people are going out and spending as much in alcohol," she added.

To help pivot to shifting demands, Amore Pasta launched a pizza product last month and is continuing to sell gift boxes that they first offered once in-person dining was halted during the pandemic.

"We've introduced new product lines to expose ourselves to new customers," Crudo said. "Every penny means something. It might not seem like a big deal in your day-to-day, but if it adds up over a year, it's a big amount."

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

Over the pandemic, many restaurants incurred debt that they are now struggling to pay off, he added, since food costs have risen about 15 per cent, with utility bills, property taxes and other supply costs surging as well.

"We still have a lot of restaurants in Alberta that are still in a really fragile state," von Schellwitz said. "We've got half of our members that are losing money or barely breaking even, and a lot of them are concerned that they are not generating enough income because of labour shortages."

He had hoped to see more help from the provincial government in last week's budget, specifically a reduction in small business taxes or help in filling job vacancies with the industry short about 18,000 staff — 44 per cent higher than the average industrial rate.

"In order to spur growth that there be more of a break on small business taxes," von Schellwitz said.

Charlotte Taillon, Finance Minister Travis Toews' press secretary, told CTV News Edmonton that the fuel tax removal and continuing the electricity and natural gas rebates are helping cut 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 in order to both attract and retain talent in the province," Taillon added. Top Stories

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