Canadian restaurants, once the envy of the world, are struggling to make ends meet as the economy worsens.
According to the Toronto-based restaurant industry association, there are 1.1 million restaurant workers in the country, but only around 10,000 restaurants have openings for new employees.
“We are very much in the middle of a very challenging and volatile economic climate,” said Jason Hodge, the association’s executive director.
He said that while many restaurants have seen a “great surge” in business over the past few years, the restaurant industry has seen a sharp decline in hiring.
“It is a challenge,” Hodge said.
“There are a lot of new restaurants coming in and people coming in with an expectation of having a restaurant experience, but with little to no training, little to zero experience.”
The trend is particularly stark in the fast-food sector, where many of the most successful restaurants are located.
Restaurants like Chipotle and Chipotle Mexican Grill have seen hiring surge in recent years.
According the National Restaurant Association, more than 10,800 restaurant workers have opened new jobs in 2016, an increase of more than 15 per cent.
And even as restaurant owners are hoping to expand their business by hiring new employees, there is concern about how quickly new hires will be able to learn the ins and outs of the industry.
“The first few months or weeks are when people get really familiar with what it’s like to work in a restaurant and that’s what makes it fun,” said Tim Smith, a restaurant consultant and former president of the Ontario Restaurant and Lodging Association.
“And then it’s about how you make sure people know their roles and are prepared to do their jobs and they can grow as quickly as possible.”
Hodge says that while some restaurants have experienced some growth in their workforce, they’re struggling to retain staff because the industry has become so saturated.
“In order to keep our businesses competitive, we need to be hiring as many people as we can and we have to get them through the training program and into our jobs,” he said.
He says it’s crucial that restaurants maintain a healthy workforce, particularly in light of the downturn in the Canadian economy.
“They have to maintain a quality workforce,” Huddle said.