Labour shortage looms for restaurants, hotels amid B.C.'s restart plan
VICTORIA -- The first full day of B.C.’s reopening on Wednesday brought diners inside, and more revenue for restaurants, but also new challenges — not enough staff to cook for and serve potential customers.
At the Brentwood Bay Resort, they have no problem retaining staff, but are frantically trying to hire more says manager Natasha Richardson.
“It’s just a non-stop recruiting shortage. We're just not getting the volume of staff that we need,” she said Wednesday from the resort’s pub, which was busy with customers.
“It’s such a challenge that my housekeeping manager and my executive chief are actually afraid,” she said. “They're feeling deep fear.”
The resort’s pub is open full-time, but despite plans to hire more line cooks and servers, the resort doesn't expect to have enough staff to operate its dining room more than two days a week for the time being.
“Now we’re concerned that we won’t be able to open our dining room to the capacity that we want because of the labour shortage,” said Richardson.
The resort lost all its housekeeping staff to long-term care jobs months ago, and while management hired new staff, they’re worried they won’t have enough.
“Were concerned that our rooms division will get so filled that we won’t be able to meet the 3 p.m. check-in time for guests and we'll have a lot of guest complaints just because of the labour shortage,” said Richardson.
In nearby Central Saanich, at the Waddling Dog Pub they are also hiring.
Taylor Snider is a server there, and says they’re hoping to hire a line cook, bartender and server. “We’re looking for some new hands on deck, looking for some happy faces to come join our team.”
The labour shortage is also on the radar of downtown Victoria hotels, like the Fairmont Empress and the Hotel Grand Pacific, which aren’t sure how quick rooms will fill up this summer.
Reid James of the Hotel Grand Pacific says he expects to have enough staff, but it remains uncertain how busy the summer season will be this year.
“If it gets up to over 50, 60 per cent then we’re going to have to scramble for labour,” said James.
Tracey Drake with the Fairmont Empress said her hotel is rehiring many staff they were forced to lay off, but a labour shortage is a real issue in the sector.
“I think as an industry, it’s certainly something everyone is talking about, restaurants and hotels alike,” said Drake. “Because a lot of people have perhaps, through the pandemic, moved on to other opportunities or industries.”
Jeff Bray with the Downtown Victoria Business Association says 14 months of closures and layoffs may have pushed many out of hospitality for good.
“[It’s] the additional hangover effect of people who left the industry altogether because of the uncertainty,” said Bray.
Still, these challenges are being greeted like a good problem compared to more than a year of empty seats in restaurants and empty rooms in hotels.