Pour Me Another Virgin, Bartender

Restaurant cheques show Canadian alcohol consumption on the decline

TORONTO, February 18, 2014 – Despite the political spotlight on Toronto and the reputation Canada has earned as a result, a recent study from leading global information company The NPD Group shows that we’re not quite the lushes we’ve been made out to be. Instead, restaurant cheques have shown Canadians are drinking less alcohol when dining out, which has resulted in a three per cent decline in total alcoholic beverages served in the past year.

Conversely, full-service restaurants (FSRs) have not experienced a similar decline in traffic; in fact, restaurant traffic during the dinner rush – when servers typically see a spike in bar tabs – has increased by three per cent. This may be due in part to the decline in on-premise dining (down two per cent), as more and more food orders are being eaten elsewhere.

“It can be difficult to pinpoint why this trend is occurring, but similar behaviour changes amongst diners in other markets have proven to be deliberate,” said Robert Carter, executive director of Foodservice at The NPD Group. “In the U.S., for example, patrons trying to better manage their cheques and curb spending sacrifice alcohol and dessert purchases first.”

The average individual spend in FSRs across Canada is $14.60, a slight one-per-cent growth from last year; however group cheques, averaging at $34.25, have decreased by the same percentage. Independent restaurants are seeing the majority of this spend, as 66 per cent of Canadians frequent these one-of-a-kind spots. This is in contrast to the 34 per cent who tend to buy their meals from restaurant chains.

The NPD Group’s data also shows that snacking has decreased by six per cent during the once-popular happy-hour period at midscale FSRs. Coupled with the decline in alcohol purchases, this shift suggests that fewer Canadians are bothering to hit the after-work bar scene, in spite of heavy promotions for cheap drinks and half-price appetizers.

“Even though restaurants are seeing a dip in alcohol consumption and afternoon snacking, Canada’s Foodservice industry is still faring well as a whole,” continued Carter. “However quick-service restaurants (QSRs) are currently outshining their FSR counterparts, and while eater cheques at QSRs have grown steadily across all mealtimes, FSRs are only seeing this success in the morning.”

Though Canadians do not appear to be drinking as much as they used to, alcohol is still one of the top-10 beverage types served in restaurants. The category makes the top three behind hot coffee and carbonated soft drinks, while iced/frozen coffees and iced tea are the least popular.


Study Overview:

The above data derives from CREST®, The NPD Group’s flagship information service for the foodservice industry. CREST® is the who, what, when and where of foodservice, operating continuously in Canada since December 1993. The sample for this service is approximately 35,000 individuals per quarter.

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Press Contact

Kim McLynn


The NPD Group, Inc.
900 West Shore Road
Port Washington, NY 11050

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