More and more restaurants are struggling to find chefs and cooks, so much so that some are finding creative ways of competing to fill their vacancies.
The shortage of qualified labour to work in the kitchen is very real and has been felt more this summer than ever before. From the Gaspé to Victoria, many restaurants have had to close for a few days or weeks, for lack of staff. Among these is the owner of the La Rose des Vents restaurant in Sainte-Flavie, which was forced to close his establishment two months after the beginning of the peak season, a first in 25 years of existence.
While they do not all have to resort to such drastic measures, the fact remains that several restaurants have had to review their opening hours or decide to open only six days a week to give a day off to the most pressured employees. This is what happened to the Le Passé Composé restaurant in Montreal, which closes on Tuesdays to allow the staff to reduce since two cooks left to regain their strength, and it is far from the only one.
Several factors involved
As the Association des restaurateurs du Québec (ARQ) told Radio-Canada last July, the declining demographics partly explains the shortage of labour and is resulting in a reduced number of enrolments in professional training programs (and therefore fewer qualified employees on the market). The tourist season that now stretches to the end of August, sometimes even beyond, forces companies to juggle with high traffic at the same time their student employees are returning to school. Low kitchen wages as well as atypical working hours are other factors that explain this shortage.
Avenues for solutions
Better distribution of tips — This is the solution advocated by the ARQ, since it would reduce the significant wage gap between serving and kitchen employees.
More flexible school calendar — a late return to school would favour student availability throughout the tourist season. The Collège Mérici, in Quebec City, has already adopted this measure and its courses begin later in the fall.
Training adapted to the reality of the environment — With the shortage comes a larger number of employees who do not have a diploma in cooking. Some schools are developing shorter training to attract this new clientele who would like to upgrade their knowledge acquired in the field.
Partnerships with schools to create specific programs — This is what will be started in the fall of 2019, Management of a Restaurant, created jointly by the Collège de Valleyfield and the ITHQ.
Improve employee’s quality of life
Gone are the days when kitchen workers endured military-like treatment. Cooks now are spoiled for choice and only those establishments that treat them well will keep them. At the Au Toit Rouge restaurant, in Quebec City, management has taken concrete steps, such as a four-day work week, an increase in salary and tips for takeout orders.