Industry Sessions Event Shines Spotlight on Labour Shortage

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The Industry Sessions: How to Deal with the Labour Shortage, hosted by Ivy Knight, at General Assembly in Toronto.

TORONTO — Restaurant operators need to offer employees forward momentum in order to retain employees, Kim Montgomery-Rawlings, co-owner of Montgomery’s Restaurant, said, at The Industry Sessions: How to Deal with the Labour Shortage.

Hosted by Ivy Knight at General Assembly Pizza in Toronto, the event brought together 40 to 50 cooks, servers and restaurant operators to discuss the growing challenges facing the foodservice labour force in Canada.

“For us, as a small business, we look at an employee’s short-term and long-term goals and try to offer them training that will help them fulfill their future goals,” Montgomery-Rawlings noted. She added her business typically hires people that are committed to the business, but are also looking to her for ways to advance their careers in the industry.

At a time when foodservice employees are looking for higher wages, benefits and better opportunities for advancement in other industries, restaurant operators are increasingly seeking ways to retain employees.

Sam Medeiros, cook at La Palma in Toronto, also discussed what it’s like to be a woman on the line. Facing barriers to advancement in an “industry dominated by men” and low wages, she says more needs to be done to make women feel comfortable.

“Your gender shouldn’t matter in the kitchen. It should be about the work, fairness and your cooking skills,” Medeiros added, noting the “glass ceiling” at past jobs, both at home and abroad, discouraged her at times. She also recalled how mentorship was hard to come by.

Daniel McCormack, founder and managing director at Plugged — an app that connects foodservice employers to potential staff — said that it’s important for operators to support the needs of their staff so they can get the same support in return. He added that rewarding employees for good professionalism and loyalty will go a long way.

“You’ve got to reward the people who stick around,” he said. “If you offer [employee] benefits or special training, they might not leave solely for more money. You have to keep them invested.”

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