Ottawa restaurants hope to attract new employees with job fairs

Ottawa restaurants suffering from severe staff shortages are now holding job fairs to attract new hires.

And the shortage is affecting businesses from small delis to big chain restaurants.

Paolo Di Rienzo has been making some of Ottawa’s best sandwiches for almost 50 years. But he can’t do it alone.

“It’s very hard to find people today,” says Di Rienzo. “I don’t think anybody would pay minimum wage now because everybody is looking for people to work.”

But finding those people who want to work is becoming difficult. 

“We are trying to cut down the hours because it’s not fair for the people that I have working to work them overtime or something,” says Di Rienzo. “I don’t want to kill them, you know?”

To help the food service industry fill jobs, the Youth Services Bureau has set up a virtual job fair on Tuesday, with openings at a number of restaurants.

“Right now the food service industry, especially, are challenged in filling current positions,” says Amber Costello, Director of Employment Services at the Youth Services Bureau. “I think we’ve transitioned to a place where the businesses needs certainly are outweighing the job seekers that are actively looking for work.”

Lone Star Texas Grill is also running its own job fair Tuesday. Barrhaven general manager Jennifer Karam says those interested in applying can stop by any one of their seven locations in Ottawa.

“With staff the last couple of months, it’s definitely been an interesting time with the pandemic,” says Karam.

“With the government closing and reopening, it’s obviously caused some issues with staffing. So we’re hoping that now that things are starting to open back up and it’s been changing since last year, that we’ll be able to start really hiring and getting some more people in the door.”

As for the virtual job fair, it’s not just entry level jobs that are needed.

“There are employers out there right now seeking to fill vacancies at all levels.” Says Costello. 

For Di Rienzo, he just wants to get back to making sandwiches and pasta with a full staff.

“It’s hard for everybody, for all industries, to find people to work,” says Di Rienzo. “So I just hope people understand that.”