In recent weeks, cases of restaurants that had to close due to lack of staff made the headlines in Quebec. According to the latest survey conducted by the Comité sectoriel de la main d’œuvre en tourisme (CQRHT) and the Association des restaurateurs du Quebec (ARQ), 7 out of 10 restaurants are facing recruitment problems. A situation that is not ready to be fixed since the Conference Board of Canada estimates that the number of vacancies in the restaurant business will increase from 8,720 to nearly 19,000 between 2020 and 2035.
A lasting phenomenon
The current staff shortage can be explained by the following three phenomena: the reduction of the unemployment rate, which has fallen in recent months to its lowest in 40 years, the demographic changes marked by the 9% drop in the number of young people by 2021 and Quebec’s growing attraction to tourists which increase the demand for restaurant staff.
All segments of the restaurant industry are affected. “This concerns fast food as well as fine cuisine and hotels,” observes Sylvie Baillargeon, project manager in research and analysis at CQRHT.
Given this fact and the decline in traditional recruitment pools, restaurant owners are turning to immigrants. Currently, immigrants represent 19% of the sector’s workforce in Quebec. Rates rise to 27% for cooks and 41% for chefs, while the proportion of immigrants is 16% on servers, on average.
Montreal less concerned
Is the restaurant industry a gold mine of employment for immigrants? While this industry offers great job prospects, the shortage does not affect all regions in the same way. “It is in Quebec City, Chaudière-Appalaches and Abitibi-Témiscamingue that demand is the most obvious,” says Martin Vézina, communications and public affairs advisor at the ARQ. Montreal, where 83% of immigrants choose to live, is less affected.
In addition, needs are more felt in the kitchen than in the dining room. According to a survey conducted this year by the ARQ, cooks earn an average of between $ 13 and $ 15.50 an hour – between $ 18 and $ 19.50 if they are chefs – while waiters receive between 17 and $ 19 including gratuities. Salaries are higher in institutions with collective agreements, but 90% of the restaurant workforce is not unionized. Finally, to date, the law only allows servers to receive tips, which can only be shared with the entire team with their agreement.
To immigrants wishing to break into the restaurant industry without previous experience or training: many employers are ready to train their recruits. “People start to dive and become cooks,” says Sylvie Baillargeon.
As everywhere, working in a restaurant is physically demanding and is sometimes stressful. However, restaurants in Quebec are characterized by an informal atmosphere, far from the military atmosphere that can prevail in some European kitchens. “The camaraderie prevails, stresses Martin Vézina. There is no rigid hierarchy.” In fact, 80% of workers want to continue in this field of work.