How tourism benefited Toronto’s restaurant scene in 2023

In 2023, Toronto saw a resurgence in domestic and international visitor volume, up 15% from the previous year to 26.5 million. That figure showed a recovery within 5% of the visitor volume levels of 2019. As travel restrictions eased even more last year and global tourism rebounded, Toronto once again became a hotspot destination for both international and domestic visitors alike. The city was quickly getting back on track as a host, and this naturally has had a huge positive impact on the city’s restaurant scene. Not too soon either, as the last few years businesses had faced unprecedented challenges.

Increase in direct spending

From a recently released report by Tourism Economics, figures indicate that 2023 brought $8.4 billion in direct visitor spending into the city of Toronto. Spending on food and beverages accounted for 24 % of that figure – which is roughly $2 billion. Restaurants of all sizes across the city witnessed a surge in foot traffic, with many reporting record-breaking numbers of diners. This boom was not limited to high-end dining establishments either, but cafes, casual eateries and food trucks across the city also appear to have experienced a notable increase in business.

Demand for culinary diversity

The pandemic put a complete stop to international tourists visiting Toronto. As tourism to the city began recovering in mid 2022, last year witnessed a rapid rise in numbers. This was due to the high demand by international travellers for air travel to Canada and its major cities. The diverse backgrounds of tourists arriving in Toronto again influenced the demand for a wide range of cuisines. Many restaurants responded by offering menus that included more global flavours, catering to the eclectic tastes of their international clientele. This trend not only re-enriched the culinary landscape of the city but also provided local chefs with opportunities to experiment with fusion dishes and innovative culinary concepts.

Authentic dining experiences

The influx of tourists in 2023 also led to an increased appreciation for Toronto’s ethnic neighbourhoods, such as Chinatown, Little Italy, and Greektown. Pre pandemic, these neighbourhoods were always actively sought out by both domestic and international tourists to Toronto. Visitors began again to seek out authentic dining experiences in Toronto’s diverse neighbourhoods, boosting the visibility and profitability of ethnic restaurants. This heightened interest in cultural gastronomy helped preserve and promote Toronto’s rich culinary heritage.

Job creation

The positive impact of tourism on Toronto’s restaurants in 2023 also saw a surge in job creation across all areas of the hospitality sector. Restaurants hired more staff to accommodate the growing number of diners, providing employment opportunities for chefs, servers, bartenders, and other hospitality professionals across the city. This rapid demand for staff was not without its challenges though, as the industry was still reeling from post COVID labour shortages. Figures from Tourism Economics state that in 2023 the food industry in Toronto supported the largest number of jobs in the city, estimated at around 18,000.

Tackling resource issues

Despite the many benefits, the surge in tourism in 2023 put a strain on resources for many businesses in Toronto’s restaurant scene. In addition to labour shortages mentioned above, the sudden increase in tourism numbers led to supply chain disruptions, with some restaurants struggling to source ingredients. This resulted in a marked increase in collaborations between Toronto restaurants and local farmers, fisheries, and artisanal producers. These partnerships not only supported the local economy but also ensured a steady supply of fresh, high-quality ingredients.

Closing thoughts…

After recent years of uncertainty, 2023 saw domestic and international tourism once again bring in a huge revenue stream for the city’s restaurants and give a much-needed boost to the hospitality sector’s labour market. Restaurants in turn have had to re-adapt very swiftly to this influx of tourists, often having to change their menus to accommodate the diverse culinary requirements of those tourists. 2023 also saw restaurants take on unique challenges with supply issues and be innovative in their approach to accessing the resources they need.

CHI is dedicated to keeping up with local and national trends in the Restaurant Industry to help serve our customers better and keep them one step ahead. If you are interested in opening, purchasing, or selling a restaurant CHI Real Estate can help. Get in touch with our team today.