StatsCAN Plus

Is Canada becoming a fast-food nation?

July 19, 2023, 11:00 a.m. (EDT)

In the years leading up the pandemic, full-service restaurants enjoyed a larger slice of the total food and drink sales pie than limited-service eateries, such as fast-food joints, coffee and donut shops. In fact, from 2017 to 2019, sales at full-service restaurants were about 3% higher than those at limited-service eateries.

While full-service restaurants were winning the battle of total sales, they lost on the profitability front to limited-service eateries for the eighth straight year in 2019 (3.0% for full-service restaurants; 4.3% for limited-service eateries).

Then came the pandemic and our world was changed, including how we purchased food from restaurants.

In 2021, full-service restaurants eked out a record low 0.5% profit margin for the second straight year on $28.2 billion in sales.

Conversely, limited-service eateries reported record-high profit margins (6.9%) and sales ($33.6 billion), capturing approximately half of the total food and drink sales pie.

“Customers switch to limited-service during economic slowdowns or times of uncertainty to save money,” says Kim Evans, lead analyst for food and drink sales at Statistics Canada. “The other issue was accessibility, given that limited-service eateries were better positioned to serve customers during the lockdowns than full-service restaurants.”

Fast forward two years to 2023 and full-service restaurants are back in business in every sense of the word.

In April 2023, full-service restaurant sales ($3.4 billion) were neck and neck with those of limited-service eateries ($3.5 billion).

It seems that, while fast food joints satisfied our cravings during the pandemic, Canadians’ desire for full-service dining is returning. Indeed, sales at full-service restaurants exceeded limited-service eatery sales every month last summer, and most recently in December 2022.

Monthly food and drink sales data for May 2023 will be released in StatsCAN Plus on July 26.

Monthly sales, by industry, April 2023

Contact information

For more information, contact the Statistical Information Service (toll-free 1-800-263-1136514-283-8300; or Media Relations (