Fast Food 

Commercial food services see positive growth in challenging year.

The last year was a challenging year for British Columbia's economy and for

tourism in particular with BSE, SARS, the Iraq war, increasing insurance

costs, and forest fires.

However, despite all these challenges, according to Statistics Canada it ended up being a relatively strong year for British Columbia's foodservice industry, especially during the second half.

Thanks to a strong finish, with 10.7 per cent growth in the fourth quarter, second only to Newfoundland and Labrador's 10.9 per cent, British Columbia's commercial foodservice finished the year with a 5.6 per cent increase in sales, which is second only to Prince Edward Island at 6.3 per cent.

"Our foodservice industry is experiencing the taste of success," said Minister of Small Business and Economic Development John Les.

"It's another sign that British Columbians, are becoming increasingly optimistic about their province's economic future."

Given the strong fourth quarter sales growth and increasing investment in commercial foodservice units, the industry expects strong employment growth to follow in 2004 to keep up with demand, adding to the more than 163,000 British Columbians already employed.

Mark von Schellwitz, VP Western Canada Canadian Restaurant and Foodservice Association said: "Positive 2003 industry statistics are the result of disposable income growth and strong consumer and business confidence.

"Clearly the policies implemented by the British Columbia Government to

stimulate the economy are working."

A survey recently released by the Canada West Foundation indicates economic optimism is on the rise in British Columbia.

The survey found 46.2 per cent of British Columbians expect their province to be either somewhat or much better off in five years - up from 40.8 per cent in 2001. Albertans on the other hand were less confident. Of those polled 37.5 per cent expect their province to be either somewhat or better off in five years – down from 57.1 per cent in 2001.

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