Pandemic uncertainty is hampering hiring in Calgary’s restaurant industry

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Despite Alberta’s high unemployment rate, filling vacancies has been a challenge for some Calgary restaurateurs.

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This is the case of Matthew Larocque, whose new restaurant and bar Porch should open its doors on 17th avenue at the beginning of September. He’s hosting a job fair this weekend, looking to fill various positions at the restaurant. By mid-Saturday afternoon, a dozen candidates had dropped by to drop off resumes and chat with staff.

“I think we’re in the same boat as everyone else, just trying to get hired,” said Larocque, general manager of Porch.

“People have done a lot of re-evaluations with COVID…and we also know there’s a lot of uncertainty going into this fall, and it’s hard for people to work in an industry that would be very affected by any potential COVID restriction in the future. ”

A fourth wave of the novel coronavirus pandemic is sweeping through Alberta, raising concerns about potential impacts on businesses if the province again imposes restrictions on public life. It’s a cycle that Larocque says has had an outsized impact on the hospitality industry, as businesses are forced to adapt on short notice, often at significant cost.

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The Canadian Federation of Independent Business recently called on Alberta to adopt a “stay open” approach going forward, to avoid further business closures. In a recent survey of small businesses in Alberta, the group found that 81% are concerned that public health restrictions this fall will affect their livelihoods.

Nyree Rainville and Matthew Larocque of Porch, a new restaurant in 17, are seen looking at resumes as they currently seek to fill various positions including bartenders, servers and chefs. Saturday, August 21, 2021. Brendan Miller/Postmedia Brendan Miller/Postmedia

According to the most recent employment data from Statistics Canada, Calgary’s three-month average unemployment rate is 9.8%. That’s an improvement from the same time last year, but still ranks last among all metropolitan areas in Canada outside of Ontario.

To make the jobs more attractive, Larocque said he emphasizes not overworking staff, to give them the opportunity to have a good work-life balance, which often isn’t. the case in the restaurant industry. He said experience is not a requirement.

A 10-year veteran of Calgary’s restaurant industry, Larocque said before the pandemic, there was a greater amount of workers actively seeking work in restaurants. Declining interest in the sphere means restaurants need to focus on creating a positive atmosphere for potential staff, with opportunities for advancement, he added.

Porch continues its job fair Sunday afternoon at the restaurant, located at 730 17 Ave. SW

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonfherring

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Cecil N. Messick