The labour shortage in the food service industry continues to be headline news not only in Canada but the U.S. as well. Restaurants Canada research has shown that 80% of respondents to their survey were having difficulty hiring back-of-house staff and 67% were experiencing difficulty hiring front of house staff (source: https://bit.ly/39YDF0b). This survey also found that the expectation is that unfilled positions will increase in the coming year (42% of respondents). These numbers are troubling and in larger urban centres the statistics may be even higher in light of increased competition for the available workforce. At this juncture with the advent of Covid-19 passports and vaccine mandates in some provinces and territories, the pressures on establishments and members of their staff have increased.
How can some of these statistics be addressed? Creative solutions abound in an industry full of creative professionals. Some establishments are meeting the challenge head on by incentivizing their existing and new staff members. Creating a work environment in which employees feel respected and valued goes a long way towards recruitment and retention. What do these incentives look like? Some incentives are straightforward and are money oriented. Others however are more creative. One such establishment is Oyster Boy in Toronto, they decided to give their employees $25,000 worth of shares in the restaurant equivalent to ownership of 5 percent each.
Money is a big issue and certainly a motivator for many in an industry in which employees often complain of low wages and long hours. If an establishment can afford it, increasing pay rates helps to attract, motivate and retain staff.
Other establishments have decided to reduce their hours because they do not have the staff to open longer hours. This adaptation allows the restaurant to remain open and service as many customers as they can within the reduced hours. This is not always the favoured option but for an establishment trying to remain open, the employees they have must be utilized to the best of their ability without overworking and disincentivizing them.
Menu item reduction is another creative solution. By streamlining their menu offerings, establishments are able to utilize fewer back-of-house staff without affecting the level of service and their operating hours.
Another creative solution is reducing the seating of the dining area to even less than the Covid-19 guidelines and increasing the takeout section of the operation. Depending on the establishment one or more of these options are being employed to ensure they can attract and retain the best staff whilst ensuring their customers receive the service they are accustomed to.
Looking Towards the Future
How does the future look for staffing in the food services industry? We believe that with flights being increased, immigration increasing and Covid-19 numbers decreasing the tide will start to change. The industry may never regain those individuals that chose to move into other careers and industries however opportunities will be plentiful for that those that choose to remain the industry and for the generations to come.