Some Nova Scotia restaurants offering bonuses and higher wages in struggle to attract workers
Restaurant owners in rural Nova Scotia are looking to incentives like bonuses and higher wages to attract staff, but still struggle to fill vacancies in a competitive job market.
Restaurants across the province have been open for indoor dining since July 14, and indoor dining capacity will increase when Nova Scotia moves into Phase 5 of its reopening plan, which is scheduled to take place on September 15.
But if there are no staff to meet increased capacity, restaurants may be forced to make drastic changes. Three restaurateurs spoke with Information Morning Nova Scotia’s Portia Clark on the challenges they face in staying open.
80 working days
Jessika Hepburn is the owner of Biscuit Eater Café and Books in Mahone Bay, NS.
Hepburn recently struggled to find a chef, despite an hourly wage of $ 21. She said finding workers has been difficult for the past three years, but has reached a critical point in the past 12 months.
Information morning – NS10:51Nova Scotia business owners offering incentives to try to fill labor shortages
Hepburn says that at one point his staff worked 80 days without a day off due to understaffing. Her cafe was also forced to turn away customers with reservations at the door because the staff were overworked.
She says the lack of affordable housing could be the reason.
As people with higher incomes moved to rural communities, Hepburn said, housing has become scarce and rents have gone up. Hepburn says this has forced many working class people to relocate to urban areas, removing the main pool of workers in the service industry.
“It was the working poor who generally worked in the service sector,” she said.
A report last year from the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives found that the “living wage” in a survey of four communities was well above Nova Scotia’s minimum wage of $ 12.95 an hour. The report defines a living wage as the amount a family needs to avoid severe financial stress and have a decent quality of life.
Residents of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality need at least $ 17.65 an hour, while the center sets the living wage in Antigonish at $ 19.55. Bridgewater’s living wage estimate was $ 16.80 and Halifax was the highest at $ 21.80.
No resumes were received, but she was lucky before when she offered housing as an incentive.
Above the Biscuit Eater are two apartments that she rented out to two people who work for her.
“The only way for me to get them to come is because I had accommodation to offer, so there wouldn’t have been any employees at all if I hadn’t had the flexibility to have the less one apartment to offer, ”she said.
She said this staffing shortage is not because people don’t want to work, but how people treat those who work in the service industry.
“You do this with the people you serve who don’t always feel like you’ve been working very hard for a very long time.”
$ 500 bonus
Mike Bishop is co-owner of The Barn, which has a location in Lunenburg and another in Mahone Bay.
He recently started offering a bonus of $ 500 to new hires after a two-month probationary period.
“Usually people stay, but we’ve had a lot of students this year, so we’ve lost about half of our staff,” he said.
Normally they have people who submit resumes even when they’re not hiring, but this year they didn’t get any for the fall.
End of season struggles
Robyn Stewart owns the Long Table Social Club, a restaurant in Canning, Nova Scotia, just before the Cape Split Trail.
Stewart says they just opened last May and are already experiencing a staff shortage.
It offered at least $ 15 an hour, an end-of-season bonus, and a meal for staff working shifts of at least four hours. But at this point in their May-October debut season, things aren’t looking good.
“I’m going to be very lucky if I arrive in October, to be honest,” she said.
Stewart says she expected to see a “flurry of applications,” but she saw none, forcing them to change their schedules from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. They are also only open from Wednesday to Sunday.
They are now offering $ 16-18 an hour and Stewart is hoping they will arrive at the end of their season as originally planned.
“We are thinking about ways to stay open until the end of September.”