FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – A couple of local restaurants say they continue to suffer from staff shortages like most municipalities across the country.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, most food establishments were forced to close temporarily. As restrictions were lifted and businesses re-opened, bars and restaurants were slammed. Most employees were usually working hours past their scheduled time, according to some local restaurants.
Director of Operations for Mr. Mike’s and the Stonewater Group, Jason Aligour, says he had to rehire staff to keep up with sales.
“After COVID, the floodgates were opened, and sales went from zero to a hundred all of the sudden,” said Aligour.
He says that Mr. Mikes got creative with ways to draw in new employees by offering incentives like family discounts and healthcare benefits upon being hired.
Payton Kimmie, manager of the Canadian Brewhouse, said her staffing issues are constant.
“No matter what I do, I never seem to have enough staff on shift,” said Kimmie.
According to Statistics Canada, the food service industry in Northeast B.C. has been at or under 2,000 employees since 2017.
The region saw its highest food service employment in 2015, with 2,700 employees.
B.C.’s unemployment rate in the food service industry in 2021 was 6.9 per cent compared to 4.1 per cent in 2019.
A total of 141,600 people were employed in the food service industry in 2020 and 143,900 in 2021.
The highest unemployment rate that the sector saw since 2011 was 15.4 in 2020.
Prior to the pandemic, the province had an unemployment rate of under five per cent from 2017 to 2019, with between 150,000 to 165,000 employees being reported.
The highest unemployment rate, prior to the pandemic, that the industry recorded was seven per cent in 2011, when 145,100 people were employed. The second highest rate was 6.2 in 2012.
While there seems to be no current solution to the labour shortage, Aligour said patrons and community members could help by being mindful when dining out.
“Sometimes these restaurant employees are working 10 or 12-hour shifts just to make that day happen for their restaurant and for the team as well,” said Aligour.
Aligour believes consideration from community members is a great way to show support for the service industry during these difficult times.