Hiring staff, a challenge for some Sudbury restaurants
Some Sudbury restaurants have had to cut their hours to adjust to a labor shortage that has hit the industry across Canada.
Peggy Sgouros, owner of Gloria’s restaurant in Sudbury, said she had to stop serving dinner because she didn’t have enough staff to cover more than a shift. And hiring new people to fill those shifts has been a challenge.
“And we have about two in 10 people showing up for (job) interviews,” she said. “Most of the time they don’t show up for their first day on the job.”
A report from the Center for Policy Alternatives found that the Canadian restaurant industry employed 180,000 fewer people in September 2021, compared to February 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic and the containment measures put in place to prevent the spread of the virus, have forced people to many restaurants to either close their doors or adapt to a take-out and delivery model.
But the report found that even as restrictions were lifted and restaurant capacity limits increased, many people who worked in restaurants moved to other industries.
Scott Florence, executive director of the Sudbury Workers Education and Advocacy Center, an organization that advocates for workers’ rights, said he was not surprised to hear thousands of workers leaving the restaurant business.
âThe truth is, waiter work is insecure, low-paying work,â he said.
“You know, the minimum wage for liquor servers is even lower than the general minimum wage, because it is understood that the customer is actually going to make up that difference rather than the owner paying an appropriate minimum wage.”
In Ontario, the minimum wage for liquor servers is $ 12.55 per hour, while the general minimum wage is $ 14.35 per hour.
Beyond compensation, Florence said the pandemic has also created a more difficult and stressful work environment for restaurant workers.
“You are putting your health and safety at risk, which doesn’t seem like a good thing to do for minimum wage,” he said.
He added that the polarization around mask warrants and vaccination passports has meant that some workers have experienced verbal or even physical abuse from customers unhappy with the new rules.
Veronica Desjardins, general manager of Laughing Buddha and Townehouse Tavern restaurants in Sudbury, said she was having difficulty hiring new staff.
âWe often post an ad and don’t get any candidates,â she said. “That is starting to change. I certainly noticed a few more people were applying for jobs, but all summer long it was absolutely impossible.”
To attract more applicants, Desjardins said it had increased the salary in some roles.
She said restaurants will also need to adjust their expectations and be more open to hiring people new to the industry.
âI hope more people will enter the industry from scratch,â Desjardins said. “And I think that’s the approach we took. Normally we would hire experienced people, and this year we kind of had to train from scratch.”
It must be a safe space and it must be an inclusive space.– Mark Browning, Owner, Tucos Tacos Lounge
But not all restaurants have had the same difficulty retaining and attracting workers.
Mark Browning owns Tucos Taco Lounge in Sudbury, as well as Beard’s Coffee Bar and Bakery and Flurple’s, a small vegan ice cream shop.
He said he was able to retain most of his staff throughout the pandemic, due to the way he operated his restaurants.
âIt has to be a safe space and an inclusive space,â Browning said. “Our kitchen receives a larger share of tips at Tacos than at most places. So basically the whole house shares tips.”
Browning said he also pays his servers more than the minimum wage for alcohol servers.
âI prefer to have good people who stay at Tacos for a long time, because the more they work there, the better they are,â he said. âSo I’m happy to pay people a bit more. But I mean, you know, there is a limit. “
Due to low margins in the restaurant industry, Browning said he couldn’t pay his employees $ 25 an hour, for example.
âYou can only increase your prices to a certain extent,â Browning said. âYour customers aren’t going to pay $ 25 for a burrito, are they? “