Restaurant owners, stop looking for qualified staff!

Initially posted on TheFoodRoom’s blog:

French version here :

Credit : Unsplash

The massive staff shortage hitting the Quebec restaurant industry is not a secret anymore. According to experts, by 2030, there will be over 29,000 positions to fill, a sign that nothing is going to fix that problem anytime soon.

The reasons for this shortage are numerous:

  • Unionized workplaces offer better conditions.
  • Tough industry, stressful. Very physical jobs. Long hours.
  • Available staff is most of the time unqualified.
  • Not enough students are coming out of school.

Many solutions have been attempted, like a better redistribution of tips or hiring foreigners and training them, but nothing seems to be able to solve that problem permanently.

If qualified employees are hard to find, why not change the workflow so we need less staff to do the same job?

Reorganizing the work processes of a restaurant could reduce the need for qualified staff for many restaurants owners. In a number of restaurants, kitchen space is very limited. In newer restaurants, we are starting to see production kitchens in the basement or in a second location. These kitchens provide dedicated space to do some production work without being stuck doing services and prep at the same time.

But what about restaurants that don’t have the luxury of a dedicated production space? The advantages of doing prep for a restaurant in a dedicated space such as production kitchen are multiple:

– Increased productivity: The vast majority of restaurants are designed to function during service, not necessarily for production. Prep work is most times done with the same equipment that is used for service. Many pieces of equipment could allow staff to transform bigger volumes. Most of these are often unavailable because of their high cost. Also, lack of storage space is often a problem for restaurants that could be solved through the use of production kitchens.

– Better standardization of recipes: Working out of a production kitchen is a great way to reduce errors, especially in cases where the same person is regularly assigned to that task and respects the recipe, it is much easier to get a result that is the same week after week. In a case where production is done for many establishments at the same time, It would be possible to produce, pack and ship bigger volumes in less time, with a product that is exactly the same, all the time.

– Better work environment: Assigning one or many employees to do only production work means stable schedules and more flexibility.

– Reduction of labor cost: Increasing productivity also means lower labor cost. This is not only because more gets done in less time, but also because by having an employee assigned to production, we can get people who have less experience as a cooks to work the line, meaning wages can also be lower.

Production facilities are not a new concept: We see new kitchens opening more often that we use to, namely with projects like CDA-TEQ1. The production facility of the Europea2 group is also available to take on subcontracting contract. Recently, Arnaud Marchand, chef at Chez Boulay in Quebec was talking about a new plant project called Usine Véritable. This plant is meant to be a solution for chefs so they could outsource some of their production work.3

Ultimately, doing the production of some of the items on a menu that require more knowledge in a production kitchen allows the achievement of a better-finished product in less time. This also allows restaurant owners to hire less qualified staff for the line and possibly cut the total hours worked every week.

And there are more problems are to come… With numerous discussions taking place about the possibility of minimum wage increases to 15$ in the province of Québec, restaurant owners are going to have to find creative solutions to the cost of labor and the production processes in order to keep being profitable. Pushing back all these extra costs onto the customer won’t be a realistic solution.

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Amélie Morency is the Founder of The FoodRoom, the first coworking space entirely dedicated to the food industry in Canada — a space where food entrepreneurs can have access to a fully equipped commercial kitchen. Since opening in August 2016, over 50 businesses have used the kitchen to do food transformation.





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