Alberta restaurants ‘scrambling to find good people’ to hire ahead of Stage 3

As Alberta moves towards a full reopening under Stage 3 of its “Open For Summer” plan on Thursday, it’s all hands on deck at for businesses. Restaurants are restocking, rehiring and retraining in preparation of July 1.

But finding enough staff to keep up with the renewed potential for full capacity is proving difficult.

Darren Fabian, the director of hospitality at Modern Steak in downtown Calgary, said it’s been a struggle re-staffing the restaurant, specifically with finding enough back-end staff.

“I think a lot of industry veterans are waiting on the sidelines to see how everything shakes out,” said Fabian.

“Is there going to be another shutdown? Is their business going to stay open? Do they need to look for a new job?

“There’s still a bit of collective anxiety about what’s going to happen.

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“The reopening came very hard and heavy so everyone has been scrambling to find good people.”

Read more: Calgary chef shares grief after losing 11 colleagues to suicide: ‘It’s the secondary pandemic’

Modern Steak is looking at shortening its opening hours so the staff it does have aren’t overtaxed.

Click to play video: 'Alberta restauranteurs hope for reimbursement in light of patio ban' Alberta restauranteurs hope for reimbursement in light of patio ban

Alberta restauranteurs hope for reimbursement in light of patio ban – May 6, 2021

The Alberta Hospitality Association suggests it’s a common problem. It’s calling on the provincial government to help ease the transition.

“We’re not here to ask for handouts,” said board member Derek Moe, who also owns a restaurant in Grande Prairie.

“At the same point, we’ve also sat on the sidelines for so long.

“Let’s make a transition where we can build our economy back up, educate great human beings, and all be able to run successful businesses that we all had before.”

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Read more: COVID-19 has caused some Edmonton servers to leave the industry while others work longer days

Many business owners have shelled out funds to beef up their patios and make sure pandemic patrons are protected. Now they’re also forking out money for retraining.

“It’s a huge cost,” said Moe. “The average person to train is probably $3,000 – $5,000 a person. In our restaurant alone, we’re going to have to hire 20 people.

“That’s $100,000 of time, effort, money labour that we’re going to invest.”

Read more: Indoor dining ban spurs jump in temporary patio applications in Calgary

And while businesses continue to invest in what they hope will be a final reopening, others have simply moved on.

“Some have made life changes completely,” said Fabian.

“During the second round of lockdowns — our staff is a little more mature and have families to take care of — so they have found jobs in other industries that kind of guarantee them a little bit more of a routine schedule and they can kind of know exactly what to expect from a paycheck.

“So some of our older staff flat out aged-out.”

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