Op-Ed by Richard Ingle – Foreign Migration can save the BC Restaurant Industry
Oct 29, 2018 bcrfauser01

Finding quality staff is the biggest problem British Columbia restaurants are experiencing, including the one I manage.  The hiring of migrants, through the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), is a solution.  However, few restaurants utilize this opportunity due to the cost, political red tape, and the uncertainty of who they would be hiring.  Without action, this labour shortage will increase the price of eating out.

As a General Manager, I have seen how our restaurant has suffered. Poor staff selection and availability are affecting productivity, quality, and customer service.  For each job opportunity, we have struggled to find, schedule, and retain quality staff.  In 2018, our restaurant had five cases of employees not showing up for day two!

We are not alone.  Victoria restaurant, North 48, closed for good in 2017 because of staff shortages, their statement read “there is an astonishing shortage of cooks in our fair city. We are in a position which provides no options…we cannot operate our restaurant without a full complement of kitchen staff.” The story is similar for Solly’s Bagelry in Vancouver, who temporarily shut down due to lack of staff.  Other restaurants close for one or two days a week or restructure how they service guests, so they need fewer employees to operate.  Simply put, restaurants are losing revenue because they can’t service the demand.

Lost revenue is not the only concern; the limited hiring pool often means compromising on employee quality.  Hiring mediocre staff will negatively affect the experience a customer receives, potentially causing them to choose a competitor.

This situation is not surprising considering the dangerous combination of restaurant growth and the sizeable number of vacant jobs in the restaurant business.  Statistics Canada reports BC’s restaurant sales were up 7.7% in 2017 and according to the BC Restaurant and Food Services Association’s (BCRFA) CEO, there are 14,000 unfilled jobs in the industry.

What are the options?  Restaurant businesses are getting creative, offering flexible schedules, incentives and higher wages.  However, this will not solve the problem.  The solution is hiring foreign migrants through the TFWP.  According to Statistics Canada, there are only, 21 servers, 673 cooks, and 80 chefs in the TFW program as of June 2018.  The industry is not utilizing this program enough.

The TFWP allows employers an opportunity to recruit abroad providing they have followed specific recruitment efforts outlined by Employment and Social Development Canada, and still cannot fill the job with a Canadian.  Additionally, businesses must submit to the government a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) application.  These requirements take approximately three months.  Upon approval, they can then look for a foreign worker to hire.

Opponents to the TFWP will cite businesses taking advantage of these workers during their time in Canada and it’s true, there have been employers abusing the system.  However, the Government reformed the TFW program in 2014, becoming stricter on rule enforcement. The result was a drop in TFWs from 163,000 in 2013 to 90,000 in 2015.

How can the TWFP be improved for restauranteurs?  Firstly, the LMIA is a fourteen-page document costing $1000 per application, with no refund if not approved.  If a restaurant uses a third-party company to process the application on their behalf, then the costs go up significantly.  With lower fees and a simpler form, more restauranteurs would feel comfortable proceeding with the application.  Secondly, the government should work with local restaurant associations to create bilateral TFWPs with foreign countries.  The BCRFA has initiated the groundwork for this by visiting El Salvador to investigate working with their culinary institutes.  Imagine the ease for restauranteurs if they could approach their provincial association when they are in desperate need.  Not only would they fill a spot on their team, but they will receive trained staff.

What will happen if the labour shortage continues?  Consumers will suffer!  The laws of supply and demand are clear and unbiased.  If the supply of restaurants continues to diminish because they cannot find labour to operate, then there will be less product to cover the demand.  As a result, restaurants will charge higher prices.  Additionally, staff working in the restaurant business will have more leverage to demand higher wages because they know the restaurant down the street is desperate to find labour and will pay more to get it.  With the restaurant business already having low margins, the only option is to again, increase prices.  The TFWP is a solution.

Cannabis and Your Restaurant
Oct 22, 2018 bcrfauser01

There are a lot of questions about the recent legalization of recreational cannabis and the impact on our industry. The BCRFA has been researching the issue in order to provide you with answers to the most frequently asked questions.

  1. Do I have to allow employees to smoke pot while they are at work?

No. Recreational cannabis is an intoxicant. Employees are not allowed to drink alcohol at work and they are not allowed to smoke cannabis. As the employer, you are entitled to have strongly worded policy that prohibits employees from reporting to work intoxicated on any substance and prohibiting use of any intoxicant while on shift or on their break.

  1. What do I do if the employee tells me they need to use cannabis for medical reasons?

You have the duty to accommodate an employee’s disability. Medical marijuana must be dealt with in the same manner as any prescribed medication. You are entitled to expect your employee to provide you with a letter from their Doctor stating they need medical marijuana for a health condition, and describing the frequency of use required for the medical condition. There is a limit to an employer’s duty to accommodate an employee’s disability however. It may not be possible to accommodate an employee, depending on the work they do. In a busy environment with spill, burn and slip hazards, it may not be safe for the employee to use an intoxicant while at work. If this situation arises, the BCRFA is here to help and guide you.

  1. Can employees bring cannabis to work to sell to other employees?

No. It’s illegal for private individuals to sell cannabis anywhere. Legalization means all cannabis must be sold through government licensed outlets.

  1. What can I do if an employee reports for work and I suspect they have been using cannabis?

The law allows you to send employees home if they report for work but appear to be in an unfit state to perform work. Worksafe BC requires you to remove an employee from the work place if they are intoxicated as they could be a danger to themselves and others. While it is unlikely a zero tolerance policy can be enforced over a legal substance used recreationally by adults, you can enforce a policy of no intoxication on any substance while at work.

  1. I have a liquor license. Do I have to worry about serving people who have been using cannabis at my bar or restaurant?

It is an issue you need to be aware of. In 2008, in Ontario, a licensed establishment was fined heavily for serving liquor to customers who had been smoking cannabis and were clearly intoxicated. You have a duty to stop serving alcohol to anyone who appears in any way intoxicated by any substance and to assure they don’t drive. You and your employees need to be trained to recognize cannabis intoxication. This training is available from GO2HR as an adjunct to the Serving in Right program. If you have an outdoor area where smoking is allowed, be aware which customers are smoking cannabis. If these people show any sign of intoxication, they should not be served liquor and be prevented from driving.

If you have any questions or are facing any issues about cannabis or any other human resource or government regulation question, the BCRFA is available to assist you. We have an experienced HR expert and government regulation expert on our team. Contact Gillian McGregor at 604 505 2374 or gmacgregor@bcrfa.com

Who are iGen and how will they impact your business?
Oct 18, 2018 bcrfauser01

iGen, also known as Generation Z, is a huge group of young employees coming up to ages where they are making an impact on the workforce. Personally, I like the iGen label because it makes it easier to remember who we are taking about – but you’ll frequently see references to GenZ.

Most demographers define this age group as those born from the mid-1990s to mid-2000s, making them roughly ages 13 to 23. They make up 25 per cent of the population Canada-wide, which makes them bigger than both boomers and Millennials. In the next few years, that figure will balloon to 33 per cent of the population. In British Columbia, we actually have a statistically smaller group of older iGens and won’t feel the bump of this generation until the youngest of them are of the age to enter our workforce.

Across the country however, this is a huge and diverse generation and the fastest growing group of employees, customers, and voters. Although small in number in BC, they are the current wave of employees that we are bringing into restaurants as servers, busers, hosts and kitchen team.

Just when you thought you were starting to understand Millenials, this generation differentiates itself – and you have more to learn. They grew up with cell phones and had an Instagram account before they started high school. They have used the internet from their youngest years. As a result, Gen Z is already the most influential group of technology trendsetters.

What does that mean for your business? Canadian Restaurant & Foodservice News tells us in a recent article that the first impact is that they don’t only eat regular meals. To meet their needs, operators have to think outside the box: all-day brunch, late evening specials, early bird specials, a new version of the happy hour. Value and price are important – and offering something that fits with a snacking lifestyle.

They are the “Grande, Iced, Sugar-Free, Double Shot Latte With Soy Milk” generation. They order custom and expect customization to be a simple request. Their world is multicultural and their food selections are too. Expect more global and fusion flavours with local ingredients becoming the norm. BC restaurants are a leader in fusion cuisine already – so this is a great opportunity for us to lead.

More good news – Technomic tell us they like to dine out: Gen Z diners already outspend Boomers in reported monthly expenditures on food prepared outside the home.

It’s all about the story and that’s where local fits in again. They want to know what’s in that menu item and where the ingredients came from and whether or they’re fresh or organic. They want the backstory: better if there is something unknown or unusual to differentiate a food, a meal or an experience. As leaders in local, BC restaurateurs have another fabulous opportunity here to stand out and lead the way.

It’s a new generation but the opportunity for restaurants here is fantastic. Read about about iGen and plan your menu to target these new consumers and workers.

For more information, check out this article in Canadian Restaurant & Foodservice News online:



Driving Profit with Starters, Small Plates and Sides
Oct 17, 2018 bcrfauser01

As eating habits shift to include more snacking and sharing when dining out, starters, small plates and sides are becoming increasingly important to operators.

Why does this trend matter?

Consider who is driving this trend. If you are designing new menu items to capitalize on starters, small plates and sides, think no further than to target younger millennials and iGen. They are fast becoming top customers of all restaurant styles – and are eating out the most meals per week.

Starters, small plates and sides can help you drive incremental traffic and build your customers preference for new tastes and to feed dinners cravings. Plus, all three can meet demands across multiple meals, from breakfast through late night.

According to Technomic’s research, consumption varies among starters, small plates and sides. Half of consumers (50%) purchase sides at all or most foodservice visits. Appetizer and small plate consumption trails slightly behind, with 36% and 26% of consumers, respectively, saying they order those items at least most of the time.

In every case, 18- to 34-year-olds skew the highest, with 66% ordering sides, 53% ordering appetizers and 42% ordering small plates most of the time or every time they visit a restaurant or foodservice location.

The top drivers for purchasing appetizers, small plates and sides also vary, but there are common threads. Cravings drive appetizer and side orders, while starter and small plate consumers both point to a need to fill the void before a meal arrives. Group sharing is another reason to order appetizers, whereas individual sampling drives small plate ordering.

Want to add something to enhance your existing starters? Cheese is worth considering: more than seven in 10 consumers like cheesy apps – plus adding cheese helps you drive up your appetizer price point!