Celebrity chef Mark McEwan says food inflation is making it harder to run a restaurant in Canada than 10 years ago.

“Food inflation, just the cost of a head of celery or a head of cauliflower, tripled for a variety of reasons. But we’ve had inflationary pressure,” McEwan – a judge on Top Chef Canada and the restauranteur behind Toronto’s One and Bymark restaurants – said in an interview with BNN Bloomberg’s Greg Bonnell.

“Every one of my suppliers was hit with wage increases. They came back [asking] for a five-per-cent increase and it just all comes up like a rainy day with a backed-up sewer, water just starts coming at you.”

The latest consumer price index shows food prices in Canada are rising steadily, climbing 3.5 per cent year-over-year in June while fresh vegetable prices jumped 17.3 per cent. That’s the biggest increase since January 2016.

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Many restaurateurs now face the dilemma of whether they can manage rising food prices, or if costs need to be passed down to consumers, McEwan said.

“I think the reality is, it has to be passed on … There’s no way you can say to yourself that you can’t raise prices, there’s just absolutely no way,” said McEwan. “You have to examine, how high can I raise my prices?”

But food prices aren’t the only form of inflation that Canadian restaurant owners have to tackle.

“I’ve seen huge inflation. You know between labour, labour bumps, with minimum wage going up … to food prices, food retail and restaurants, you’re always examining your [profit and losses] to see how it impacts you,” said McEwan.

However, the chef says he believes it’s important that the food-service industry continues evolving alongside changing economic conditions.


“It was easier to make money in the restaurant 10 years ago, 15 years ago, even six years ago.  Today you can’t just be a chef, you have to be a business person. You have to be highly focused on your numbers and you have to know your client,” said McEwan.

“That’s how complicated it is today.”