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labour shortage in the hospitality biz


shelora
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I'm over 30 but I'm not bitter or angry. I choose to make my own destiny and opened my own restaurant. I cook by myself and for myself. I do have regular guests who like what I do and I hope that we will become successful enough that I can provide a decent living for my family. I think Matt hits right on the head, you have find the people that want to cook well and learn how to be a good cook.

Dan Walker

Chef/Owner

Weczeria Restaurant

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To add to the discussion, but take it away from the $$$ issue, one of the facts of life for a line cook is that it is a job where you are always giving, giving, and giving. You read the bill, you cook, and you give. The people who are always taking(F.O.H.), are making much more money, and are percieved to be doing less work, sweating, and hours. The waiters are taking, taking, taking...So, if you have the passion, you keep giving, and you recieve satisfaction, training, experience, until you get to the top to make the $$$. But if you are just trying to make the $$$, it is a battle to figure why you should be working for 9 to 12.00 an hour( and paying taxes which afects the botom line),under extreme pressure, and drinking beer, while waiters look clean, suck on their Bourbon Manhattens, and hang out front. Also unfortunately, too few Waiters thank the cooks for the hard work, or even say hello to them. So money is important, but their are many factors to why it is hard to keep the flow of cooks into the system.

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[host]

This discussion has veered towards a more generic discussion of why it's hard to find line-cooks, etc, that can be applied to any market in the world.

Since this is a regional forum, I need to remind everyone that discussion in this thread needs to be focussed on the labour shortage as it pertains to Western Canada. If we can't keep things focussed regionally, the thread will need to be moved over to General Food Topics.

Thanks for your help.

A.

[/host]

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My thoughts:

New hotels and additional restaurants have opened on the island as well as Tofino and the mid island which has created more competition from employees and wage inflation. The interior and okanagan is becoming more of a destination and is also migrating workers away from the coast. It is also difficult to compete with properties that have very high union wages for front of house positions.

The economy is so seasonal that we have a reliance on a semi transient workforce to fill our summer needs. A solution is to search for a recipricol work force or network with winter destinations.

The gov't needs to look at easing the restrictions for foreign workers and improving and assisting in increased exchange programs from the areas such as New Zealand, Australia and the UK. I receive numerous resumes from Europe but it is difficult to arrange the visa and is not a expedicious process. Restauranters and Hotels also need to go after the coop students.

Anyway, I am sympathetic to this thread and I have a tough Spring for recruiting but have found some solutions. Although I have had to look further and farther abroad to fill senior positions at the hotel.

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Andrew, the big downtown hotels Pan, Waterfront, H. Van ect. pay 1st cooks (journeymen) around $17 -18 an hour. I've been away from the Waterfront for 2 years now and that was what we were paying at that time. The $12 - 15 is definetly closer to the norm for stand alone locations.

Average wage in Nanaimo for cooks is around the $9.00 mark (did a recent wage survey)

One thing I have seen more of this year is guys coming in who have spent the last couple of years in constuction and are now looking for something else, little or no experience, basically looking for something to pay rent until the next construction boom up here.

The culinary program at Malaspina is putting a lot of cooks through right now but one has to wonder where they are all going.

Colin

Hotel Van just signed a new CBA in August, and even before that a 1st Cook's wage was just over $20/hr.

Part of the reason I left is because as a Department Head working 50+ hrs a week plus Christmas and other holidays I was making less than some of the cooks that spent their 8 hrs chopping carrots and peeling potatoes, when Stat holidays and OT were factored into things.

That's why they celebrate a lot of 30 year anniversaries.

Ian McTavish

General Manager / Capones Restaurant & Live Jazz Club

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I hear ya McTee, worked there for 2 years.

Some good points James, one difference I do see however up island, is what the customer is willing to pay for a meal. That definetly will reflect on what we as employers can afford to pay our staff, in order to acheive any proffitability at all something has to give, and unfortunetly its wages. I'd be interested in hearing some of your solutions for finding staff as I'm almost at my wits end, short of grabbing people off the street.

Does anyone think the price of gas has an effect on finding staff? The majority of my staff comute from Nanaimo everyday (30km) Guess its one of the drawbacks of being in a rural setting.

Colin

Colin Dunn

Burnt Out Exec Chef

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I hear ya McTee, worked there for 2 years.

Some good points James, one difference I do see however up island, is what the customer is willing to pay for a meal. That definetly will reflect on what we as employers can afford to pay our staff, in order to acheive any proffitability at all something has to give, and unfortunetly its wages. I'd be interested in hearing some of your solutions for finding staff as I'm almost at my wits end, short of grabbing people off the street.

Does anyone think the price of gas has an effect on finding staff? The majority of my staff comute from Nanaimo everyday (30km) Guess its one of the drawbacks of being in a rural setting.

Colin

I doubt that this is a possibility, but has the property considered on-site housing for employees? How far away you are from Nanaimo? Having just returned from Tofino and listening to their labour difficulties, the bigger properties have made a bigger commitment to keeping employees by offering very affordable on-site lodging. Tofino has always had a lodging issue, but this year might be their most difficult in finding workers.

Not knowing how big of a team you have out there Colin, would it be too great of an expensive for your employer to consider offering some sort of transportation for employees? Like a shuttle service. Do you have one to ferry your customers in from the Nanaimo airport?

And James, I do recall the Aerie having a shuttle service at one time. What happened to that? Perhaps the remoter properities on the island could start a dialogue about finding and keeping good employees.

A previous poster waxed passionately about learning with little pay as incentive enough to work in the industry. That is all well and fine, but for how long?

Another poster upstream said they were moving to Calgary for work, but wasn't it in Calgary recently that a new restaurant was providing a trip to Mexico as incentive for finding employees?

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Another poster upstream said they were moving to Calgary for work, but wasn't it in Calgary recently that a new restaurant was providing a trip to Mexico as incentive for finding employees?

Smart not to offer a free trip to Vancouver, as they'd likely never leave. :laugh:

If anyone is really familiar with the area and the industry context, I have some questions...

Is the cost of renting an issue in Tofino for employees (when and where is it not!)?

What would the rent range be for a 2 bdr house?

Is seasonality growing to be less an issue than in Victoria?

Edited by Andrew Morrison (log)

Andrew Morrison

Food Columnist | The Westender

Editor & Publisher | Scout Magazine

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Shelora, were 10 minutes outside of Nanaimo and 5 min away from Parksville, hardly a major commute by LM standards. There has been talk of a shuttle service, BC transit has a bus that goes by the resort, unfortunetly its every 4 hours :wacko:

We are going to be offering a summertime signing bonus to all employees that survive until October, that may generate some intrest however there just doesen't seem to be the same amount of people looking for work as in previous years.

Colin

Colin Dunn

Burnt Out Exec Chef

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CBC Radio (BC Almanac) had a discussion about the shortage of hospitality workers throughout BC. It seems most chronic in smaller communities - but it is being felt throughout the province. Competition from other industries (ie: construction) is compounding the problem.

Here is a guide to the archive: CBC - BC Almanac

Edited by canucklehead (log)
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CBC Radio (BC Almanac) had a discussion about the shortage of hospitality workers throughout BC.  It seems most chronic in smaller communities -  but it is being felt throughout the province.  Competition from other industries (ie: construction) is compounding the problem.

Here is a guide to the archive: CBC - BC Almanac

The guest from Go2 suggested that the law of supply and demand was in effect in BC. This law dictates that as demand goes up and supply goes down, prices should rise. Well, why aren't the prices for labour (in restaurants and other tourism business') following this rule? Maybe consumers aren't feeling the pinch in this sector that they ought to be.

-- Matt.

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Well, I'm not sure if i can add relevance to the out of town areas, but perhaps I can shed some light on our part.

Price is very much an issue, here. If you take into account the labour costs on top of the food costs and understand that each percentage is vital, not to profits, but to prices, you might see why this industry is so grossly underpaid.

dish = $10.00

product cost = $3.00 or 30%

labour cost = $3.00 or 30%

fixed business costs = $3.00 or 30%

profit before taxes = $1.00 or 10%

Let's assume that this is the industry standard for the breakdown. . .

Regardless of the fluctuation, lets see what happens when you go from $10./hr to $15/hr on your staff.

product cost = $3.00 or 30%

labour cost = $4.50 or 45%

fixed business costs = $3.00 or 30%

profit before taxes = (-.50) or -5%

Obviously the business owner will pass on the costs to the consumer, to make the numbers work, so now the dish will have to cost $12.50

Most, if not all business owners want to make sure they can stay competitive with their counterparts, and, ultimately, we all want to feel like we can offer a good value.

I can't speak for anyone else, but the line we walk everyday is trying to get the best possible experience for the lowest possible price. I for one will attest that this business only makes millionaires out of people who started as multi-millionaires. :laugh::laugh:

Of all the cooks that I've met, very few have been able to get to the top, and even there met challenges they'd never faced before. Our business is humbling on all levels, that is part of its allure.

Some of us, when faced with a difficult decision, strive to make the best decision. Typically, it's the hardest path to walk, and walking down that path with you will be a few cooks. Be nice and they'll let you buy them a whiskey.

The rewards are out there for the right mixture of talent, attitude and fortitude, but the mix is rare. I hope one day we'll see a day that our cooking programs get the same kind of government support as our hockey programs. I guess only when a bocuse d'or win gets thousands of people rioting on Robson will that happen though. . . :wink:

just my 2

Owner

Winebar @ Fiction

Lucy Mae Brown

Century - modern latin -

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Wow. What a great thread.

My experience, coming to BC from Banff. Opening the restaurant in Banff I was very surprised at the quality of kitchen applicant, loads of VERY talented young cooks with experience, from Canada, and from Great Britain and down under. They were mostly on one year working visas, and mostly willing to commit to a year. The major draw seemed to be living and working in that "uniquely" Canadian environment. They were excited about the winter boarding season, and the summer hiking extreme-everything season, and passionate about the kitchen.

Why does Vancouver not have that vibe for the far away cooks ?

I agree with the money talk so far on this thread, but the mountain money was in line with Vancouver - $12 - $16 for line cooks worth having. Does it come back to affordable living again then ? Rent is comparable up there but there's plenty of cheap food and fun to be had for the young.... not so much in Vancouver ?

In closing, now that I'm here....we're having trouble filling the spots in our kitchen too. And the corollary to that of course is that it's almost impossible to get rid of the stick in the mud employees, because they ARE making an okay wage....

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Seems to be an industry wide-issue, certainly not limited to the lower mainland or Vancouver Island.

Today's National Post has Amy Rosen commiserating with Calgary chefs like Ned Bell [Eight], Scott Pohorelic [River Cafe] and the C.B.C.'s food critic John Gilchrist on the same issue. The "oil boom" has a projected 1,500 new restauant seats being opened by mid-summer [i am assuming that is since last Fall].

Same issue here in Edmonton having discussed the same with a chef after lunch at a downtown spot I frequent and with an owner who is the process of opening another.

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Even in Calgary there is a severe shortage of decent cooks. Tomorrow I could go out with 10 résumés and get 10 job offers. It's rediculous (I've been offered jobs at restaurants I've eaten at once they discover I'm a cook). Cooks are dropping out of the industry altogether at a very fast pace (heck, in the last 4 months I've seen half a dozen very passionate and skilled cooks leave the industry), and I can see why.

You bust your ass cooking for 12 hours a day, making 10-14 (*maybe* 15-20 if you're a journeyman in a large organisation) dollars per hour (with no benefits other than free food and liquor), or you can get into construction or a skilled trade and START at 16-22 dollars per hour with full benefits, and be making 30-40 dollars per hour by the time you're done your apprenticeship in those fields. With the cost of living growing at the current pace, it's becoming almost impossible to make any sort of a living working in restaurants.

I feel even worse for those who've paid money for culinary school, as they've basically thrown their money into the garbage because they won't be able to afford to work in the industry with those school loans.

If owners don't start paying more for kitchen staff they could soon find themselves having to close their doors...

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Hi

You do not just come out of school and become a chef! :blink: (sidebar)(rant)(milkcrate)

----------------------------------------------------------------------

The food channel has created a false bravado in regards to what life is like as a chef- This life is like " Rock and Roll”; everyone wants to be a Rock Star- well sorry only about one percent of musicians become rock stars.

The food industry is in similar boat- also many hot star chefs are not doing us a favor (no dis. here- just the facts) - personal goals are always ahead of the benefits to the industry as a whole. We as a professional group have splintered down to many self interest groups (especially the wet coast).

There are like six different cooks associations- are we all not just cooks?

------------------------------------------------------------------------------

My god I mean CHEFS :huh: (sidebar) (rant)

Back to the ranch- I mean pay

Sherwood is right. Vancouver costs are so high (along with min wage)! The eater (van) does not want to pay what the food in high end restaurants is really costs- so we cooks have had the same wage for over ten years (in van) - I think a line cook should make like 15-17 an hour. I mean a good 1st cook- sous or chef is a different animal. Vancouver chefs mostly are owners or have roots so that wipes out a lot of the available work in the position as chef.

Calgary is paying 15-17 an hour for a line cook but a shortage is there---- why cook when you can go into construction with little experience and have a life for more money.

TV- has created that glorified life we cooks supposedly live--- a year in the bus and people realize it is not that glorified. You have to love the business!

For me this is my like 25-year--- ouch! Why!

Because food is my life

steve

Cook To Live; Live To Cook
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If we're talking about the labour situation in the restaurant industry, we should distinguish between the situations in the front-of-house and back-of-house.

The construction boom is thinning the ranks of the city's kitchens, but not its dining rooms. Cooks are rightly tempted by the prospect of better pay, shorter hours, and better benefits. For waiters, who make more money and work shorter shifts, the prospect of swinging a hammer is not as appealing.

I don't like to emphasize the front vs. back, "two solitudes" aspect of the restaurant business--too many silly fights erupt over that sort of thing as it is--but the reality is there are two different economies at work here.

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The construction boom is thinning the ranks of the city's kitchens, but not its dining rooms. Cooks are rightly tempted by the prospect of better pay, shorter hours, and better benefits. For waiters, who make more money and work shorter shifts, the prospect of swinging a hammer is not as appealing.

I might be out of line here, but I know lots of professional cooks who see themselves not as artists, or rockstars, but as tradesmen and craftsmen. Taking something raw, and making something larger than the sum of it's parts. This, in my opinion, can be seen as a similarity between food service, and other compulsory trades.

Service staff are purely providing a service, and not really producing anything at all. The connection isn't there.

Also, cooks and construction workers are used to taking two showers a day anyways, so what's the diff? :laugh:

-- Matt.

Edited by Matt R. (log)
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Service staff are purely providing a service, and not really producing anything at all. The connection isn't there.

I understand the sentiment, but I disagree.

Forget artisanal creativity for a second and consider your diners. They are out to have a nice meal, the complete package: food, service, atmosphere, and value. I'd argue (and I'm sure I'm not alone on this here) that the majority of them can recognise good food, but they don't fetishize it to the point of pausing, mid-meal, to whip out a camera. Food porn money-shots are an enthusiasm lost on them. They confine themselves instead to the peripheral pleasures of not cooking at home.

You're the art and we're the dealers. :wink:

Edited by Andrew Morrison (log)

Andrew Morrison

Food Columnist | The Westender

Editor & Publisher | Scout Magazine

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This topic is somewhat off track. What about solutions? Perhaps restaurants that take a 1-2 points for the house should reconsider and divert to the kitchen brigade. That would easily inflate wages by an additional 1-2$ perhour.

Although, in defense of service staff the service is an experience which is produced by human capital. You can't have one with out the other. Good food and chef's egos only go so far in sustaining a business.

Edited by James Kendal (log)
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