COVID-19: A N.B. restaurant owner and the ‘challenges’ to find full-time staff again

Click to play video: 'Some NB restaurants are struggling to find staff' Some NB restaurants are struggling to find staff
WATCH: Some Maritime restaurants are struggling to find staff as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted for diners. Global’s Shelley Steeves reports. – Jul 14, 2021

Maritime restaurant owners are still feeling the effects of the pandemic, even as COVID-19 restrictions are being eased.

Keith Macintosh, the owner of St. Louis Bar and Grill in Moncton and Dieppe, N.B., said he is grateful to be back up and running to full customer capacity.

“You can’t believe how happy people are to come in and be comfortable and enjoy a meal out and get together with family and neighbours they have not seen,” he said.

But finding the staff to service those diners has been a challenge.

“The industry as a whole has had challenges finding staff that can return and stay full time,” he said.

Mackintosh said some of his casual staff left the foodservice industry altogether in the wake of COVID-19 shutdowns.

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“They might be a little leery of our industry just from the point of view that we went through multiple phase changes where we were open, and then into orange where we had limited capacity and then we were closed and then back to open”, he said.

His full-time employees who’ve returned have managed to pick up the slack, he said.

“The interesting thing is to watch a number of the restaurants if you will see in New Brunswick that have not returned to full capacity and a lot of that is going to be reflective of some of them not being able to put the full team in place,” Mackintosh added.

Luring employees back to the table to work in the restaurant industry has been a challenge in many provinces says Restaurants Canada Vice-President Olivier Bourbeau.

“It is really difficult to attract people. As we speak people are still a little bit afraid that restaurants could close again which is why sometimes they prefer to work in a different industry,” said Bourbeau.

Which is not good for an industry that was already short 60,000 workers nationally pre-pandemic, said Bourbeau.

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Prior to COVID-19, Mackintosh said that he hired foreign workers to fill staff vacancies in his kitchen.

“With COVID there is a backlog in processing for these folks to be able to get them into Canada,” he said.

He said the hiring process for foreign workers used to take 12 weeks, but now takes upwards of 65 weeks. Those delays have prompted Restaurants Canada to call on the federal government to speed up the process, said Bourbeau.

“The food industry we should have the same process relaxation as agriculture workers,” he said.

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