After the shock of the pandemic, the recovery is proving difficult for restaurants, which have to rely on runaway inflation and a shortage of labor.
Posted at 11:16 am
Several restaurants across the country have to reduce their opening hours and offer a smaller menu to address these two situations.
Yet customers are hungry for restaurant meals, especially with the lifting of public health restrictions put in place to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Customers are back. But when you don’t have staff to work all shifts, you need to cut down on hours, says Gordon Stewart, executive director of the Nova Scotia Restaurant Association. There are very few restaurants that are open all seven days of the week for full hours. ”
The restaurant industry was hit hard during the long pandemic marked by repeated layoffs and limited capacity. About 13,000 businesses have closed permanently.
The situation has caused an exodus of workers to sectors that promise more stable incomes. Some have even decided to go back to school. Canada also received fewer immigrants during this period.
Paradoxically, the low unemployment rate, which according to Statistics Canada was 5.2% in April, doesn’t help restaurants.
As the lucrative patio season begins, experts predict that the number of jobs available will rise to 210,000 in Canada, says Olivier Bourbeau, vice president of federal and Quebec affairs at Restaurants Canada.
“It’s extremely difficult for restaurants to find staff,” he points out. We don’t have enough employees. ”
The problem concerns kitchens in particular.
“We lack chefs, sous-chefs, cooks. This is what’s really hurting restaurants, ”said Stewart.
During the pandemic, some restaurateurs attributed the understaffing to financial assistance provided by the federal government. However, the current shortage seems to show that this is a more complex problem. Employees say long working hours, unstable hours, low wages and grueling conditions, especially in kitchens, are also factors to consider.
Restaurant owners also have to rely on the rising cost of living.
Statistics Canada reported that the annualized inflation rate reached 6.7% in March. Food prices have soared, including dairy products, pasta, meats and cooking oils.
“From gasoline to steak, he’s gone crazy,” says Mr. Stewart. Prices are generally on the rise. ”
Restaurants have eliminated some less profitable meals from the menu. They prefer to close their doors for lunch, dinner or in the less crowded moments of the day. Others cut down on portions.
“If you don’t sell a meal after a product’s expiration date, it has to be thrown away,” says Stewart. Orders are smaller. Restaurants are monitoring their inventory more, checking plate sizes and developing smaller menus. ”