The kitchen at Ithaka Greek Restaurant is busy with prepping, and owner Dimitri Adamopoulos is pitching in right alongside his staff due to a lack of labour.
“I’ve been working in the kitchen since we went back to dine-in, just because our numbers with the staff aren’t what’s necessary in a bigger space,” he said. “So yeah, whatever it takes.”
It’s noon, but lunch is cancelled because of too few staff — and it’s not just meals being missed. The establishment is now closed on Sunday and Monday.
“We’re just trying to focus on dinner service, still offering take-out and delivery as well,” Adamopoulos said. “But until we have the proper reinforcements, we don’t want to spread ourselves too thin.”
Even though the hospitality industry is now fully open for indoor and outdoor dining, the struggle for island restaurants to find people to work is being felt everywhere, including Oak Bay’s Sedona Restaurant and Lounge.
Owner Yvonne Janzen said staffing is a significant issue.
“We’re really short-staffed. We were open for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the longest time. And now we’ve had to cut back to dinner because I don’t want to overwork our chefs.”
Janzen opened in October, but a labour shortage means she’s cut back from seven days a week to five, and reduced the hours the café is open.
“It’s extremely frustrating,” Janzen said. “But I would say it’s frustrating for all the restaurants, especially us, not known yet. We’re still really new. We never had a grand opening. Just kind of opened, and hoped for the best because we had to.”
And recovery is not going to happen over night in B.C. according to Ian Tostenson, President and CEO,. BC Restaurant & Foodservices Association
“We’re 40,000 to 45,000 people short in the industry by estimate. Front of the house, and back of the house. That’s on a base of 190,000 people. So it’s significant. And it’s pretty much a crisis.”
Tostenson says it make take a year or two for the industry to recover, while owners struggle to keep up with the growing demand, and lack of labour.
READ MORE: Restrictions on gatherings, concerts loosen as B.C. moves into Step 3 of restart plan