labour shortage

Restaurants fear labour shortage will continue

Canada’s restaurant labour shortage, plaguing the industry in recent months as one of the latest effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, could continue for the foreseeable future.

That’s according to Restaurants Canada’s latest Restaurant Outlook Survey, which found that the majority of restaurateurs are still finding serious difficulties in hiring staff.

The survey, conducted in early July, found that 80 per cent of respondents were struggling to hire back-of-house staff and 67 per cent were having trouble filling front-of-house positions.

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For quick-service restaurants, the biggest challenge was finding food counter attendants, line cooks, and managers and supervisors. Meanwhile, at table-service restaurants, the difficulty is most acute in finding chefs, cooks, and dishwashers.

With many foodservice businesses now reopened, this hiring crisis is creating a hugely challenging scenario for many restaurant owners and operators. The short-term relief felt at being able to reopen has quickly given way to further anxiety.

Restaurants Canada notes that, as a very labour-intensive sector, it can always be difficult to find adequate quality and quantity of staff in foodservice. Even before the pandemic, restaurateurs were facing significant labour shortages due to myriad factors, but that has become more challenging than ever.

A wary outlook

Looking ahead at how the labour shortage may pan out over the next year, the survey found that 42 per cent of restaurants expect the number of unfilled positions to continue to increase. That figure rises to 50 per cent for quick-service restaurants vs. 39 per cent for table-service restaurants.

Across all segments of the industry, 30 per cent said they expected the number of unfilled positions in their business to increase somewhat over the next year, while another 12 per cent said they expected a large increase. Roughly four in 10 respondents (38 per cent) said they were unsure.

Overall, only 19 per cent said they expected the number of unfilled positions to fall.

Restaurant owners are looking at a variety of options to address these labour shortages, including: 

  • Offering benefits like health and/or dental 
  • Free meals 
  • Flexible work schedules 
  • Referral bonuses 
  • Higher wages 
  • Better communicating company culture/values