The head of quick-service restaurant​ chain Pizza Pizza Ltd. said the COVID-19 pandemic has been a “wake-up” call for people in the restaurant industry, while warning a majority of businesses in the sector could soon go bankrupt if nothing is done to help them.

The warning comes in the wake of a new campaign spearheaded by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and a group of 15 companies in the food service industry that aims to put a spotlight on how precarious some restaurants in the country are due to COVID-19. The “Our Restaurants” campaign plans to urge the federal government to provide tailored support to assist the industry survive the pandemic.

Paul Goddard, chief executive officer of Pizza Pizza,  one of the companies backing the campaign, told BNN Bloomberg that while some government programs aimed to lessen the impact of the coronavirus on the economy have been helpful, there is a lot more that could be done.

“I don’t think some Canadians quite realize how dire the situation is,” he said. “We’re really trying to make our voices heard louder and hopefully people do hear and take serious note of how important this is to the whole economy.”

The campaign cites a recent report from Statistics Canada that concluded over 60 per cent of Canada’s restaurants may have to close permanently within the next three months due to the economic impact brought forth by COVID-19.

The restaurant sector has been one of the hardest hit from the pandemic with 800,000 jobs lost, according to Restaurants Canada. The Toronto-based industry association added that food-service businesses could lose as much as $44.8 billion in annual sales compared to last year due to COVID-19.      

Goddard said they’re also trying to encourage more people to support local restaurants by giving them their business.

“Every restaurant you see is really a cornerstone of the community,” he said. “So many of them are struggling so much that we really need more continued help from the government side until things get better, but more importantly, also getting people out there … just to support these businesses in this tough time.”

While restaurants have adapted quickly to precautionary measures aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19, the looming end of patio season and the possibility of a second surge of cases may result in at least a year or two before things get back to normal, Goddard said.

“It’s going to be a long run,” he said.