Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Low Wages, Small Workforce Leaves Booming B.C. Restaurants without Chefs

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Low Wages, Small Workforce Leaves Booming B.C. Restaurants without Chefs

Article excerpt

B.C. restaurants struggle to find chefs, staff

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VANCOUVER - The restaurant industry may be booming in British Columbia, but a combination of the high cost of living, tight profit margins and a shrinking workforce has made it difficult for kitchens to find enough staff.

Eric Pateman, president of Edible Canada, said the company's restaurant at Vancouver's popular tourist destination Granville Island has been short anywhere from two to five chefs at a time for more than two years. That's meant scaling back the restaurant's hours or turning down special events, which has been a financial blow, Pateman said.

While the cost of living in Vancouver is a contributing problem, Pateman said a range of issues including long hours, low wages, the gratuity system and rising business costs are factors as well.

"The millennial generation ... even the older chefs I'm seeing and the older cooks I'm seeing, are just saying 'We don't want to do this anymore. That's not the career we want. That's not how hard we want to work.' It's certainly not an easy industry," he said. "I think there needs to be some levelling in the playing field ... to get that wage up to a living wage, which at the end of the day entices more people to be in the industry."

Mark von Schellwitz, vice-president Western Canada with Restaurants Canada, said B.C. may be experiencing a "perfect storm" of challenges in finding chefs but communities across the country are having similar problems.

The number of young people getting into the restaurant business is shrinking while the demand is growing, he said.

A regional "mismatch" of skills and needs exist that leaves some rural communities without enough young people to hire and people aren't willing to move to fill the vacancies, he said.

"People want to be employed near where they live and these jobs are not high executive paying jobs, it just doesn't make economic sense to move somebody," he said.

The cost of running a restaurant has also increased significantly -- notably with rising food costs -- but menu prices have remained stagnant, leaving little room to raise workers' wages, he said.

Jamil Mawani of Jambo Grill in Vancouver said the family run business has turned to non-traditional labour markets and temporary foreign workers to fill the gaps in the kitchen. …

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