A new survey is painting a grim picture of the state of the food service sector in Canada, and where it could be headed, as fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

In a report published Thursday, Restaurants Canada revealed 800,000 Canadians have lost their job in the food service industry since the beginning of March, and even more losses are expected soon.

By comparison, just 400,000 Canadians lost their jobs during the last recession in 2008, according to Statistics Canada.

Restaurants Canada polled thousands of restaurants across the country and found that four out of five restaurants have already laid off workers, while 70 per cent say they will have to cut back on hours or lay off more staff if the current situation doesn’t improve.

”In our 75 years of existence as Canada’s national food service association, these are by far the worst numbers we have ever seen,” said Shanna Munro, president and CEO of Restaurants Canada, in a release.

“Not only was our industry among the first to feel the impacts of COVID-19, we’ve been one of the hardest hit so far, with nearly two thirds of our workforce now lost.”

Restaurants Canada says the $93 billion food service industry represents four per cent of Canada’s GDP, and estimates second-quarter sales for that sector will be down nearly $20 billion if conditions do not improve.

In terms of government assistance, the non-profit is calling for rent relief and an injunction on evictions. It also wants the government to make it easier to qualify for the recently-announced wage subsidy program in order to keep workers on the payroll, or to rehire those already laid off once the economy recovers.