employment

Restaurants key to restoring Canada’s pre-pandemic employment

It’s not just foodservice that has been suffering a labour shortage. Across numerous industries in Canada, employment levels remain down when compared to before the pandemic.

Restaurants could be the key to restoring the balance.

“Restaurants are key to bringing Canadians back to work, but precarious conditions over the past 18+ months have created unprecedented hiring challenges,” said Restaurants Canada President and CEO Todd Barclay. “As Canada’s fourth-largest private sector employer, typically employing 1.2 million people, the hard-hit foodservice industry deserves a plan to recover remaining pandemic job losses and avoid a long-term labour crisis.”

Barclay’s organization is calling for sector-specific commitments from all political parties ahead of the upcoming general election to return foodservice employment to pre-pandemic levels and prevent a long-term labour crisis.

RELATED: 8 out of 10 Canadian restaurants still barely surviving

Recent data from Restaurants Canada found that 80 per cent of restaurant operators say they are still struggling to hire back-of-house staff and 67 per cent were having trouble filling front-of-house positions. Many of those operators expect the hiring crisis to continue.

Separate data from 7shifts found that 26 per cent of responding restaurants across North America are looking for cooks and line cooks, while 17 per cnet are in need of servers and seven per cent are seeking bartenders. The hardest positions to fill are cooks and line cooks, managers, and bartenders, with only 23 per cent of postings for cooks/line cooks and 37 per cent of managerial postings receiving applications.

There were already nearly 60,000 unfilled positions in foodservice before the COVID-19 crisis exacerbated the situation. But, according to the latest data from Statistics Canada, the foodservice and accommodation sector now has nearly 130,000 vacancies, the majority being restaurant jobs.

Foodservice and accommodation accounted for close to half of all jobs added to the Canadian economy in June and July, according to Statistics Canada. But there are still nearly 230,000 fewer workers in the foodservice sector than before the pandemic. Bringing Canadians back to work in restaurants would supposedly fill nearly all of the 246,000 jobs still missing from the Canadian economy since February 2020.

Full-service restaurants are operating with 6.2 fewer employees in the back of house and 2.8 fewer staff members in the front of house compared to 2019, according to a report by Black Box Intelligence.

National strategy needed

To help the restaurant sector overcome pre-existing labour shortages exacerbated by the pandemic, Restaurants Canada is calling for a National Foodservice Labour Development Strategy, including employment measures such as: 

  • Support for the expansion of impactful labour pilot programs, such as the Atlantic Immigration Program and Alberta Foodservice Labour Connections.
  • An increase in federal funding to ensure efficient and effective processing of immigration applications by reducing wait times, administrative burdens, and increasing information-sharing between sponsors.
  • An extension of work visas for a full year and suspension of fees until 2022.
  • The addition of a foodservice stream into the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) to address seasonal and long-term labour shortages, as well as a redesign of the national occupational classification structure to broaden the categories of positions that foodservice employers can use the TFWP to help fill, as well as a lower administrative burden on small businesses who use the TFWP.

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