The HEAL Participates in This Year’s Growing Your Workforce Conference

The HEAL participated in this year’s Growing Your Workforce Conference to present the preliminary results of the Food Retail Environment Study for Health and Economic Resiliency (FRESHER). The conference was hosted by Workforce Planning West, the Western Ontario Wardens’ Caucus and the Learning Networks of Western Region. This conference focused on solutions that could help organizations attract, retain and train the talent they need.

Dr. Jason Gilliland, the HEAL Director, who delivered the presentation began by explaining that FRESHER is a pilot study of the effects of COVID-19 on restaurant’s, fast food outlets, grocery stores, cafes, bars, pubs. The study aims to triangulate the impacts of COVID-19 by: (1) Mapping the operational status and closures of businesses across Ontario; (2) Surveying the impacts of COVID-19 on employees and employers in the food retail sector; and (3) Interviewing business owners, related professionals and policy makers to collect their perspectives on the situation and to learn about potential strategies for resiliency.

To date, the research team has mapped 26,834 businesses and made over 40,000 phone calls to businesses in the food retail sector. Additionally, 404 survey responses have been collected with 53% of those being employees and 47% being senior management. To add to that, over 85 hours of in-depth interviews have been conducted with stakeholders from all corners of the industry. These include owners, managers, deliver drivers, workforce boards, planners, local politicians, members of parliament, and other food retail practitioners. From these interviews, reoccurring themes continue to be identified by establishment owners and operators. The most common is the obvious economic downturn that many of these businesses have experienced and continue to experience with rolling lockdowns and restrictions. An owner of a restaurant in London, Ontario noted, “When we could only do takeout and delivery, we were doing 25% of our normal sales. When only patios were allowed, people stopped ordering since they could go out to other businesses. Our sales dropped to 7% of a normal month…and this business has been profitable for 12 years.” Lastly, another output of the study includes the 12 Deep Dish blogs that have been written by the research team on various topics related to the impact of COVID-19 on the food retail industry. Click here to read these Deep Dish blogs.

If you would like to participate in the FRESHER study, you can click here or if you have any questions about the study email

Categories: FRESHER, Newsletter

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