HELP US FIND HELP!
Employers struggle to fill food service, entry level jobs
North Vancouver’s iconic Tomahawk Barbecue has closed for dinner four nights a week while owner Chuck Chamberlain tries to find kitchen help.
In three months since losing several longtime cooks, his ads have drawn just 12 applicants and plenty of noshows. 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 hasn’t shown up yet.
“Most of my chefs had been here more than 30 years, so I didn’t know hiring would be such a problem,” said Chamberlain, who has employees commuting from as far way as Port Moody. “Well it’s become such a problem that we have to close at four o’clock Monday through Thursday.”
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, Aphroidite’s Organic Cafe has suspended all dinner service for the fall and winter due to a staff shortage.
“In almost 25 years in this business I’ve never seen it this bad,” said chef Robert Belcham, owner of Vancouver’s 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.
“Fifteen years ago I was selling a salmon main course is hardly for $25 and today I’m still selling the salmon entrée for $25,” Belcham said. “What else can you buy for the same price as 15 years ago? Five years ago? Nothing.”
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.
“I’d 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. “It’s not an easy job and the shelf life of a line cook is maybe ten years and usually it’s only a couple of years. It’s a high pressure job and you don’t get paid anything.”
Long distance commuters appear loathe to spend hours on transit for a kitchen worker’s wage, which typically starts under $20 an hour.