VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Prior to the pandemic, 190,000 people worked in B.C.’s restaurant industry. Now, the industry is facing a labour shortage crisis.
Ian Tostenson with the BC Restaurant and Food Services Association says a few months into reopening, the sector is facing a major problem as low numbers of people are returning to work, and employees are stretched to their limits.
“Some people out there have not decided to go back to work — they’re seeing it through on their server equivalent unemployment benefits they get.”
He says it’s gotten to the point that many restaurant owners are stepping in and working long hours in the kitchen or on the restaurant floor to keep themselves afloat.
“People put ads out for workers and there’s no response. It’s really, really sad.”
Tostenson says summer sales are at a peak, and encourages customers to bear with the exhausted employees.
“Just gonna be a lot of exhausted people, is what it’s going to come down to. We will pull this off, we always do,” Tostenson says. “I guess the shout out to the public would be your support is so amazing, but if we’re just a little bit slower, and it’s a bit of a lineup, or you can’t quite get in the time you want, just be patient.”
He also adds guests may see some changes as business owners try to make do with limited employees.
“We’re seeing owners now having to step in and work very long hours. You’ve seen restaurants that are closing — an example, they’re closed on Mondays now because they can’t staff it. So you’re seeing reduced hours, you’re seeing menus that are remaining simplified so that it doesn’t take so many staff to present the menus.”
He says he anticipates the industry will recover more by the time the summer peak ends, and more people return to school and need restaurant work to make ends meet.
“Restaurants are busier now than they were in 2019 – pre pandemic So that just shows you this sort of built-up demand.”