canada inflation

Inflation continues to impact Toronto restaurants as they struggle with rising prices

We all know that inflation and sky-rocketing prices on food are impacting businesses - but the reality in Toronto is downright heartbreaking.

A March study from the Angus Reid Institute found 45 per cent of Canadians polled said they were worse off financially now than they were this time last year. 

In February, Restaurants Canada said menu items were expected to increase by an average of 5.3 per cent in 2022. For quick service restaurants prices were expected to go up 4.5 per cent, 5.6 per cent at table-service restaurants and 5.5 per cent at all other food establishments.

For Boaz Rachamim of Eisenbergs Sandwich Co., rising prices and inflation has had a "domino effect" on his business.

"It's a challenging time with everything going on, that's a huge problem because peoples' salaries haven't adjusted to this inflation, everything is costing more and they have mortgage payments coming up. People are going to be strapped," he said.

For Eisenbergs itself, Rachamim is struggling with staffing, food suppliers and a shift in customers.

Offering handmade quality Jewish fares, the restaurant has only been open for over a year and Rachamim doesn't want to impact the customer base he's already established.

Switching to lower quality foods would save him money, but would it cost him his customers?

The restaurant makes their own bread and only uses albacore white tuna - a pricey but necessary option.

Rachamim has also been toying with the idea of removing a couple menu items as well, with the price of red peppers - a key ingredient in Eisenbergs' salads - doubling in price.

"I think for us, we understand inflation but we don't want to stoop down low and give our clients something that's not been advertised. We will not go below our standards, people don't forgive you," he remarked.

This sentiment is also shared by Jacob Aboudi of Surreal Sweets, which is a bakery that happens to be kosher - not the other way around.

"We've seen costs across the board go up at least 30 per cent and in some cases things have double or tripled," he tells blogTO. Aboudi notes that flour prices have gone up almost 100 per cent and cooking oil that used to cost $20 is now at a staggering $52.50.

"The bigger issue is the constant game of missing products, there was a sugar shortage - literally you couldn't buy sugar," he recalls, a huge disadvantage for a bakery.

Just like Rachamim, Aboudi is also playing with the idea of increasing prices on his products - but it's a big decision to make. Besides goods he calls "luxury items" so far, Surreal won't be charging even a penny more.

"We'd rather give it away for free than reduce our prices, we are trying really not to raise at all," he said.

Veronica Hernandez of The Arepa Republic is dealing with more than just rising food costs (like a 50 per cent increase on avocados). A major part of the company's business plan is operating a food truck and she says there's been a massive hike on takeout containers and disposables too.

"We belong to the food truck business, everything has to be takeout so the disposables are crazy," she said.

She also notes workers wages are increasing and though minimum wage is at $15 per hour, their business hires people at $17 or higher.

"In this kind of business it's just food, we don't have alcohol. The profit that you have is tight, if we increase salary from $15 to $20 then our costs rise. That's why we use tipping to help our staff," she remarked.

In the first quarter of the year Hernandez said The Arepa Republic raised costs by 30 per cent while at the same time saw a 20 per cent decrease in customers.

"It's difficult to be honest. In this case, our small business, we are the bone of economy, we should receive help from the government."

Food banks are fighting inflation too

The scene at Toronto food banks is also just as bad, if not worse. Both Daily Bread and Parkdale Community Food Bank report huge increases in clients from all walks of life.

Pre-pandemic, Daily Bread was seeing around 60,000 individuals come to the bank a year, on average.

June 2022 alone was recorded as seeing 167,500 clients with that number expected to jump to 200,000 and probably 225,000 in the next few months.

But as visitation to food banks increases, so do food costs.

"We're anticipating another increase when it comes to dairy. We are seeing some of those basic things, things that everyone buys like pasta sauce and fruits and vegetables - those are all increasing," said Neil Hetherington, director of Daily Bread.

Executive director at the Parkdale Community Food Bank, Kathleen Raman Costa, said there is a very obvious (and heartbreaking) increase of families with young children visiting the bank as well.

"There's an increase in families, especially families with kids. More requests for diapers and kids snacks, perishables and dairy products," she said.

Because of increased clientelle, food banks are grappling with how to purchase more food.

"It's costing us more to buy the same amount of food, we have to purchase so much more food now," she said.

Both food banks are encouraging residents to donate financially if they can, preferably on a monthly basis if possible, though any bit of food or cash helps.

As for Hernandez, Aboudi and Rachamim, all three are committed to the businesses they love and are hoping for a break soon.

But as all three have remarked, they're optimistic for what the future holds.

"You're not [in this business] because you think you're going to make a million dollars, you're doing it for the love of the game," Aboudi said.

Lead photo by

Jason Pham

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