Labour shortage hitting Ottawa's hospitality sector
At Fratelli’s in Kanata, the patio is full and the kitchen staff are cooking scrumptious Italian dishes, but owner Richard Valente says they’re barely hanging on.
“The last few months have been awful in terms of staffing you just can’t find people,” he said.
Before the pandemic, Valente says Fratelli’s had no issues hiring staff—either in the dining room or in the kitchen, but things are different now.
“Barely any roll in looking for jobs. Kids are looking for summer jobs, which is fine, but when August 15 rolls around and they go to university it’s going to be quite the dilemma and we’re discussing the possibility of closing an extra day,” he said.
It’s not just the restaurant industry. Staff shortages are also causing delays and lineups in every sector in the hospitality business.
A recent report from Statistics Canada shows the job vacancy rate was highest in food services and accommodation, at 11.9 per cent.
“I know hotels don’t have rooms in operation simply because they can’t service them,” said Steve Ball with the Ottawa-Gatineau Hotel Association.
Ball says managers have had to fill in for maids at times. The answer may be hiring foreign workers—but red tape and timing is a problem.
“There are workers who want to work in Canada but they can’t get here fast enough,” he said. “If you can’t get a work visa until September, it misses the season.”
University of Concordia economics professor Moshe Lander points to several factors causing these shortages and disruptions.
“Baby Boomers retiring, Gen Z-ers that don’t have work experience, COVID that has changed the way tourism food beverage work is leaving people scrambling to find what the new normal is,” said Lander.
With tourism season in Canada kicked into high gear, Valente is worried about his staff burning out.
“I don’t know I don’t think it’s going to better; it’s going to get worse and it’s very worrisome as a business owner,” he said.