Manitoba restaurants served busy weekend, staffing challenges amid new restrictions

A restaurant is shown in a file photo from shutterstock.com.

From staffing shortages to frustrated customers, some Manitoba restaurants dealt with challenges over the Labour Day long weekend as new provincial restrictions took effect.

Manitobans now need to be fully vaccinated if they want to participate in certain activities, including indoor and outdoor dining at restaurants, nightclubs and bars, casinos, bingo halls and VLT lounges, movie theatres and gyms.

The Manitoba Restaurant and Foodservices Association (MRFA) said it was a busy weekend for many local businesses as these new public health orders took effect.

“Restaurants are definitely picking up. Obviously, being in the middle of Burger Week, a lot of restaurants are busy, which is great. Manitobans are coming out and supporting their local restaurants,” MRFA Executive Director Shaun Jeffrey told CTV News.

However, Jeffrey said staffing continues to be a major challenge for the industry.

He said Manitoba restaurants are operating at about 56 per cent of pre-pandemic staffing levels. According to Jeffrey, there are two main barriers - the industry is still competing with federal pandemic subsidy programs and many employees left the industry altogether from multiple lockdowns and the instability it caused in work.

“We’re trying to attract those employees back to the industry because we need them now more than ever,” he said.

Jeffrey said enforcing pandemic restrictions has also been difficult for some restaurants, with these businesses bearing the brunt of customers’ frustrations over public health measures.

“A lot of Manitobans were coming in, being very appeasing in making sure they have their vaccination passport or their QR code available plus their ID. But we’ve received a pretty decent amount of negativity in-person, plus on social media,” he said.

“To us, that’s quite unacceptable because we’re just following the orders that are imposed on us by the Manitoba government, and we’re just doing what we can to stay open because the restaurant industry cannot risk another lockdown. We cannot get shut down again. We just can’t survive that,” he said.