Business and Operations
Good help: From the Editor’s Desk
By Colleen Cross
It’s hard to get good help. We sometimes say it in a joking way to tease someone who has made a mistake.But in the restaurant industry, it’s painfully true.
Restaurants are the fourth largest employer of Canadians, according to the most recent Labour Force Survey from Statistics Canada. And because, as you all know, foodservice work is very labour-intensive, restaurants are at a definite disadvantage compared to other industries.
For example, grocery stores – now seen as keen competitors of restaurants – require 4.4 employees to generate $1 million in sales, according to Restaurants Canada’s Foodservice Facts 2018. In contrast, restaurants require 16.6 employees!
A recent survey by the association showed half of respondents had an “extremely difficult” or “very difficult” time filling back-of-house jobs; 31 per cent had trouble finding managers and 12 per cent had trouble filling front-of-house jobs.
It’s hard to understand why industries like manufacturing and food service so desperate for good workers aren’t connecting with the many workers in need of jobs. Many experts have grappled with this question, and it seems to boil down to a shortage of skills.
Challenging as the situation is out there, we are hearing about some creative solutions. While restaurants are trying everything from cutting wages to paying more to attract workers, to reducing hours, to targeting older workers – some are getting creative in other ways. Nowhere is creativity more needed than in British Columbia, where restaurant workers are in high demand.
Jackalope’s Neighbourhood Dive in Vancouver has offered to help pay for its cooks to attend culinary school and has created “averaging agreements” that allow staff to work four days of 10-hour shifts instead of five days of eight-hour shifts, CBC News reported in January as a minimum wage increase loomed and as Ontario businesses sought strategies to deal with their own minimum wage increase.
I am beginning to think putting a high priority on training will be a key to keeping restaurant kitchens staffed.
Jackalope took a stand to help educate and support staff. Other simpler strategies may include giving workers a trial run before hiring them or co-ordinating with high schools and colleges to hire through apprenticeships or co-op positions.
Intangible skills, or soft skills, matter too. In our June issue, college marketing graduate Kayleigh Scott wrote that her experience working at a pizzeria during her high school years strengthened her communication skills and continues to serve her well along her school and career path.
Whatever skills you teach your staff – food preparation, cooking, food safety, equipment operation, communication, customer service, serving or leadership – it’s important to be able to name, describe and show the value of those skills. If you demonstrate that you value and respect those skills, chances are they will too.
It’s a tough labour market for businesses and workers, so empathy goes a long way. Roughly six per cent of Canadian minimum wage workers aged 15 to 64 juggle multiple jobs, according to Statistics Canada. Employer flexibility is no longer a perk but a necessity.
Join us at the Canadian Pizza Summit in October to talk with other operators about such issues, get menu ideas and more! Meanwhile, we hope this season is a hot one for sales!