2017-10-09 23:35:54 UTC
nights a week while owner Chuck Chamberlain tries to find kitchen
In three months since losing several longtime cooks, his ads have
drawn just 12 applicants and plenty of no-shows. The two that showed
up for their scheduled interview were hired on the spot.
One new hire was scheduled to start a week ago on Saturday morning,
but hasnt shown up yet.
Most of my chefs had been here more than 30 years, so I didnt know
hiring would be such a problem, said Chamberlain, who has employees
commuting from as far way as Port Moody. Well its become such a
problem that we have to close at four oclock Monday through
Chamberlain is hardly alone.
The Noodle House on Lonsdale Avenue in North Vancouver shut down
permanently a few weeks ago due to a chronic shortage of staff and
sporadic one-day restaurant closures are popping up all over the Metro
Vancouver. In Vancouver, Aphroidites Organic Cafe has suspended all
dinner service for the fall and winter due to a staff shortage.
In almost 25 years in this business Ive never seen it this bad,
said chef Robert Belcham, owner of Vancouvers Campagnolo, Campagnolo
ROMA and Monarch Burger. We have an entire industry that is
struggling to find quality cooks.
Restaurants are feeling the squeeze, in part because diners are so
sensitive to price increases, he explained.
Chef Robert Belcham GLENN BAGLO / Vancouver Sun
Fifteen years ago I was selling a salmon main course for $25 and
today Im still selling the salmon entrée for $25, Belcham said.
What else can you buy for the same price as 15 years ago? Five years
Much of the glamour attached to the industry by the rise of Food
Network and celebrity chef worship has faded as young workers face the
reality of working in a hot, busy kitchen.
Id love to be able to pay all my staff a $40,000 living wage,
because we want them to be happy and stay, said Belcham, who commutes
from Maple Ridge. Its not an easy job and the shelf life of a line
cook is maybe ten years and usually its only a couple of years. Its
a high pressure job and you dont get paid anything.
Long distance commuters appear loathe to spend hours on transit for a
kitchen workers wage, which typically starts under $20 an hour. Even
Tomahawks kitchen wages of $20-plus an hour dont line up with the
cost of housing or the hassle of a long commute, Chamberlain said.
A recent report from Padmapper pegged the average rent for a
one-bedroom apartment in Vancouver at $2,020 a month. A B.C. worker
paid $20 an hour takes home $2,798 a month, according to the EasyTax
While there are pockets of Metro Vancouver with more affordable rents
mainly Langley, Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows and the Tri-Cities area
there are few if any vacancies close to Vancouver, according to a
market report from Vancity. Rental vacancy rates in Vancouver,
Burnaby, Surrey and North Vancouver are under one per cent, according
to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.
The Vancity report notes that rents have increased at double the rate
of wages since 2011.
Craigslist currently has 2,500 postings for jobs in Metro Vancouver in
the food, beverage and hospitality category alone.
Several chefs pointed to the abrupt curtailment of the temporary
foreign workers program for the gap between the number of qualified
workers and the needs of the industry.
Ian Tostenson, president of the B.C., Restaurant and Foodservices
Association, believes professional kitchens should be looking to a
relatively untapped resource, namely workers sidelined by addiction,
mental health issues and bad luck.
The industry isnt going to be able to attract the same people they
have in the past, said Tostenson.
Businessman Brad Mills and Tostenson founded H.A.V.E. Culinary
Training Society to teach kitchen skills to people living in the
Downtown Eastside. A similar program called Knack is run by the
Potluck Cafe Society.
We need a disruptive model to get people into restaurant jobs, he
said. There are a lot of people who would be really appreciative of a
$17 an hour job and you have an employee for life.
H.A.V.E. has placed 900 workers over ten years, with an 80 per cent
Its not just Metro Vancouver and the food services industry thats
struggling to find workers.
B.C. has the highest job vacancy rate in the country at 3.1 per cent
56,000 unfilled jobs according to the Canadian Federation of
Independent Business Help Wanted report issued in August.
Those numbers are consistent with Statistics Canada estimates that
pegged B.C.s job vacancies at 68,000 earlier this year, with 81 per
cent of the increase over the past two years concentrated in the Lower
Sectors with rising job vacancy rates include oil and gas,
construction, transportation, and hospitality.
Vacancies arent so much a sector issue as a small versus large
issue, said Ted Mallett, vice-president and chief economist at the
Small businesses such as mom and pop restaurants and independent
construction firms are hit hardest by persistent vacancies, he said.
If you only have five employees, thats 20 per cent of your
workforce, he said. If there is a lot of turnover, a lot of time and
energy are required to look for, hire and train up new employees. It
takes an awful lot of the business owners time.
The pain is being felt by businesses that rely on younger workers, who
are not already established in the real estate market.
For the last 18 months to two years, its been a growing challenge
for companies to acquire talent at the rate they need it, said Bill
Tam, president and CEO of the B.C. Tech Association. The pressure on
salaries has escalated quite considerably in the Lower Mainland.
The average salary across B.C. for all tech workers is $83,000, but in
Metro Vancouver, tech firms pay a premium to entry level workers,
between $70,000 and $85,000 a year.
Thats a reflection of the pressures they face trying to fill their
The B.C. Tech job board has between 1,200 to 1,500 jobs posted at any
Senior software developer and architect positions take the longest to
fill and anyone coming to Vancouver from any market smaller than San
Francisco, Boston or London will face some serious sticker shock when
it comes to renting or buying a home.
There is a real adjustment when you come from somewhere that doesnt
face the same cost of living reality that we do, Tam said.
Tech firms are increasingly setting up shop in the suburbs, where
their workers can afford to live, thus eliminating onerous commutes.
Virtual reality innovator Finger Food Studios has set up shop in Port
Coquitlam, while Safe Software, FINCAD and a whole host of health tech
companies are clustered in Surrey Central, Tam said.
The link to SkyTrain and the opportunity for workers to live outside
the citys ultraexpensive core is a powerful draw.
I go back to work Tuesday and my rate has been increased by $3 an
hour. See a number of help wanted signs while I am out and about.
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