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The foodservice sector is grappling with nearly 100,000 job vacancies

We are deeply concerned for our Atlantic Canada restaurants following the recent severe snowstorm. This extreme and historic weather event has not only disrupted operations but also imposed significant challenges for restaurant owners, staff, and patrons alike.

Over the past few weeks, Canada has experienced a series of chaotic weather events that underscore the unpredictable nature of our climate. Regions across the country have been subjected to a wild mix of conditions, ranging from sudden snowstorms and unseasonably warm temperatures to powerful wind gusts that have interfered with daily life. These extreme conditions have highlighted yet another foodservice industry vulnerability while, at the same time, have revealed our importance to the communities we serve. 

We are deeply concerned for our Atlantic Canada restaurants following the recent severe snowstorm. This extreme and historic weather event has not only disrupted operations but also imposed significant challenges for restaurant owners, staff, and patrons alike. Our thoughts are with all those in the hospitality industry during this difficult time, and we extend our support to the restaurant community as they work to recover and continue serving their customers amidst these challenging conditions.

On the national front, the foodservice sector is grappling with nearly 100,000 job vacancies. This is the highest in the private sector, accounting for one out of every six private-sector job vacancies in Canada. On average, restaurants are operating at 80 per cent of their normal capacity due to labour shortages. At such a critical time for our industry, it is vital to the stability and economic viability of the sector to ensure we have access to a strong workforce. 

Newcomers to Canada make critical economic and cultural contributions which can be seen in the rich diversity of our industry. We are the largest employer of immigrants and newcomers to Canada with 31 per cent of restaurant owners belonging to visible minority groups. 

Richard Alexander, EVP of Government and Public Affairs, and I will be heading to Ottawa this week for meetings with the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, The Honorable Marc Miller, and his team for a discussion centred around the importance of the foodservice industry in communities across the country and to present the proposal below. 

Recommendation: Revive Destination Employment Program & Expand Scope

Newcomers to Canada make critical economic and cultural contributions yet face challenges in accessing the professional development opportunities necessary to obtain employment in their chosen field. By expanding opportunities to connect with the workforce in collaboration with local networks, the government can aid in further strengthening the labour market and increasing the likelihood of retention in the long term. In 2018, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada launched the Destination Employment program, facilitating the workforce integration of newcomers working in hospitality fields. This was described as a “win-win” for employers and newcomers, helping businesses fill vacancies while providing an opportunity for newcomers (including refugees) to obtain their first Canadian workforce experience.

As our labour and immigration advocacy efforts continue, I’d like to again direct our members to Restaurants Canada’s valuable Recruiting International Workers toolkit, designed to help navigate the complex and sometimes frustrating immigration process. There are a number of different streams operators can tap into to access the labour needed for their operations and we encourage the industry to take advantage of all the options available. This toolkit was made available thanks to work and expertise of our valued member, Recipe Unlimited, and their Head of International Recruitment, Amy Nhan.

On behalf of all members of Restaurants Canada we thank Amy and Recipe for their willingness to share their internal content with Restaurants Canada membership. 

In Ontario, we are celebrating with the industry the news of the confirmed deferral of the scheduled March 1st annual basic beer tax increase for both 2024 and 2025.  

In all the many meetings Tracy Macgregor and I have had with various Ontario ministries and ministers, we have continued to stress the continuing rise in expenses for operators and the impact this is having on the industry—not only its profitability, but its ultimate viability and the vitality of the communities we serve. In his quote, Minister of Finance, the Hon. Peter Bethlenfalvy, indicated that, in part, the decision was to help provide “certainty and stability for the alcohol and hospitality sectors”. The move stopped the estimated 4.6 per cent increase to the beer basic tax and LCBO mark-up rates that was scheduled for March 1, 2024. We thank Minister Bethlenfalvy for this decision and the continued two-year deferral is a welcome relief to operators.

We also thank our industry partners who collaborated on this successful advocacy outcome including ORHMA, Beer Canada, Drinks Ontario and TIAO.

Read the announcement HERE.

As you may know, Tourism HR Canada has just started a three-year project intended to increase tourism employment opportunities for people with disabilities in Canada, Belong.  Part of that project involves conducting a survey of hospitality and tourism businesses to better understand how operators currently engage with HR practices aimed at broadening the pool of potential employees.  This input will be incredibly important as we develop tools and training for hospitality and tourism operators who are facing mounting recruitment challenges, and who may be seeking untapped talent pools to meet those needs. Links to complete this important survey are below.

English Survey

French Survey

Canadian hospitality schools play a crucial role in delivering the professional training and accreditation that attract high-potential youth to our industry, who will become the industry leaders of tomorrow. Several of our senior team and I recently had the opportunity to attend a special event hosted by the George Brown College Centre for Hospitality and the Culinary Arts (CHCA), and I never cease to be blown away by the level of creativity, professionalism and dedication of the faculty and students. Their belief in the value and spirit of our industry is a reminder to all of us of the central role hospitality and foodservice play in our culture and community and to the power and prosperity of the restaurant sector.

As the industry celebrates Black History Month, I would like to acknowledge the enormous contribution the Black community makes to the restaurant and foodservice industry, not just in February, but every day of the year. The Black foodservice community has highlighted key issues and opportunities that are both challenging and advancing our industry, from diversity, inclusion and belonging in our workplaces and the elevation of Black cuisines to food sovereignty—but there is so much more to do.

I’m looking forward to visiting The Black Experience Pavilion at RC Show 2024 and hope you will have the chance to do so too. Sponsored in part by Kraft Heinz, and curated in partnership with The Re-Seasoning Coalition and Foodpreneur Lab, The Black Experience Pavilion is an innovative space where brands can learn how to strengthen their DEI programs and buyers can connect with a diverse array of offerings from Black-owned farms and food and beverage (F&B) entrepreneurs. The Pavilion promises to be a vibrant and dynamic area where visitors can explore, taste and engage with a variety of products that reflect the depth and breadth of Black F&B brands and meet the creative minds behind them. I invite you to explore a sample of the offerings from the Foodpreneur Lab alumni community and read more from MENU magazine.

Tomorrow (February 13th) is Canada’s Agriculture Day. In 2023, the restaurant industry purchased $38.5 billion in food and beverages (alcoholic and non-alcoholic), and we know that much of that is connected to agriculture in Canada! To celebrate our industries’ enduring partnership, we will be in the nation’s capital to engage in food and agriculture conversations, celebrating the hardworking people who bring us the food we love and recognizing the essential contributions of agriculture to the foodservice industry. 

We will be attending several #CdnAgDay events including Agriculture More Than Ever and The Future of Food as we engage in a number of conversations with government officials about the importance of the relationship between restaurants and Canada’s agriculture community.

From left to right: Kelly Higginson, President & CEO, Restaurants Canada and Her Worship Olivia Chow, Mayor of Toronto

Chief Operating Officer Tracy Macgregor and I were pleased to attend an event at The Canadian Club to hear Her Worship Mayor Olivia Chow address the upcoming budget and hear how she and Toronto City Council are working towards a better Toronto. Restaurants feed and nourish communities, bringing vibrancy and creativity to main streets across this city while contributing significantly to the economy. We were encouraged to hear that the mayor’s vision for a strong future for Toronto includes a commitment to increasing investment in innovation and economic growth.  

The Restaurants Canada team, including our regional V-Ps Max and Jordi, came together in Toronto for an energizing and productive all-team meeting. I would like to thank the team at Mildred’s Temple Kitchen for hosting us for a belated, but memorable holiday lunch.


From Richard Alexander | Executive Vice-President, Government Relations & Public Affairs 

BC & Ontario: Live Chicken Price Increase
Restaurants Canada doubling down on advocacy against price increases lack of price-setting process access.

British Columbia Live Chicken Price

Our industry purchases 40 per cent of the live chicken in Canada and BC yet, under the supply management system, we have very little standing in most provincial price setting processes and no standing in the province. We are deeply concerned about the 10 per cent price increase in BC. This is precedent setting for the rest of Canada and as such, your Association is committing significant resources to the issue. 

Ontario Live Chicken Price

Under the supply management system, the Province of Ontario recently increased their price of live chicken by 3.3 per cent. Restaurants Canada has made representation to the Chicken Farmers of Ontario for details surrounding the new price. Specifically, we have asked:

  1. What went into the calculation of the category, “return on capital,” which was the largest increase?
  2. What is the measure utilized for a “fair return for labour and investment” and who validates this measure is fair?  
  3. We also asked for understanding as to why this information was not provided publicly as it has been in the past. 

Restaurants Canada will be determining a course of action once a response is received. 

Regional Engagement Committees
National meetings are complete and Restaurants Canada thanks members for their participation.

Restaurants Canada’s regional V-Ps just wrapped up a nation-wide series of regional engagement committee meetings. These committee meetings are run quarterly and provide the opportunity for
V-Ps to update members on advocacy issues and activities in the region. These meetings also give members a chance to bring forward issues and pain points that are challenging the success of the industry. 

I was pleased to attend most of those meetings and provide an update on our federal advocacy issues, which focus on three areas:

1. Inflation relief

2. Immigration

3. Sustainability

Based on questions asked during the meeting, it was evident that members, no matter where they are located, are all significantly impacted by Ottawa’s decisions, and that Restaurants Canada’s federal lobby is essential to protecting member interests. 


From Maximilien Roy | Vice-President, Federal and Quebec

Federal: Prebudget Submission

Restaurants Canada is presenting its prebudget submission and advocating for it.

Ahead of the federal budget, Restaurants Canada prepared a submission with measures focused on two main issues: the high inflation that is crippling our industry’s profit margins, and labour shortages, which limit operational capacity.

You can read our recommendations here.

It’s one thing to write a prebudget submission, and it’s another to make sure policymakers read it. As such, we have been busy on Parliament Hill, meeting with key policymakers to educate them on our industry’s needs. We’ve met for discussions with many Ministers’ offices, including the Minister of Small Business, the Minister of Tourism and the Minister of Finance, as well as the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship of Canada, the Hon. Marc Miller.

Left to right: Maximilien Roy, Vice-President, Federal and Quebec, Restaurants Canada; Richard Alexander, Executive Vice-President, Government Relations & Public Affairs, Restaurants Canada; Kelly Higginson, President and CEO, Restaurants Canada; the Hon. Marc Miller, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship of Canada

We have more meetings scheduled in the coming weeks—stay tuned and don’t hesitate to contact me if you have questions. 

Quebec: Temporary Foreign Workers (TFWs)
A cap on temporary foreign workers? In this economy?

Premier Legault recently stated that he is considering limiting the number of temporary foreign workers as the total Quebec population surpasses the nine million mark. This is cause for concern considering the labour shortage we are facing. With over 20,000 current job vacancies in the sector, it is unlikely that a cap on TFWs would help our industry or our national economy at this time. 

In response, we have reached out to key policymakers to share our concerns and educate them on the state of the restaurant industry. We’ve established a good communications channel and will keep you apprised as the conversation evolves.  

Quebec: Prebudget Consultation
Key focus areas mirror Restaurants Canada’s federal submission, with additional local priorities.

We have also prepared a prebudget submission for the Quebec Government, which has the same two key focus areas (inflation and the labour shortage) prioritized within the federal submission. Our recommendations also include a request for a clear mandate to the SAQ to provide more generous wholesale rebates to our industry, and more leeway for the deployment of MEV-WEB.

You can read our recommendations here.


From Jordi Morgan | Vice-President, Atlantic

PEI: Provincial Advocacy Meetings Postponed
Record Atlantic snowstorm delays travel.
Last week, I had plans to travel to Prince Edward Island to meet with officials, government ministers, caucus and opposition members of the Assembly to provide people in government a clear picture of what’s happening in the industry and talk about things that can be done to benefit the food and beverage sector. However, sometimes mother nature writes your travel itinerary this time of year. 

The photos below were supplied by Restaurants Canada board member Kent Scales who offered some wise counsel not to make the trip. 

Charlottetown, PEI last week, courtesy of Restaurants Canada Board Member Kent Scales

Despite the obstacles, we will be submitting our recommendations for the PEI budget this week followed close behind by recommendations for Nova Scotia and New Brunswick…and the PEI meetings are being rescheduled.

PEI: New Paid Sick Leave Provisions
PEI government requests Restaurants Canada’s feedback on implementation strategy.
The government of Prince Edward Island has asked Restaurants Canada for feedback on the implementation of its new paid sick leave provisions. In November, the government passed a change to the Employment Standards Act which includes the provision of three days of paid sick leave per year, per employee. They have asked for our input on implementation on matters including the date paid sick leave provisions come into force and the length of time necessary for employers to adjust payroll records, for example. Restaurants Canada has recommended this Act not come into force until at least Q1 of 2025, arguing that our sector needs more time to recover and return to a level of predictability similar to pre-pandemic norms. 

We are still waiting on news from the government of New Brunswick on their plans for paid sick leave after their consultations last month.

Newfoundland & Labrador: Lobbying Efforts Continue
Local priorities are aligned with national industry priorities.
Later this month we’ll also be organizing our asks to the government of Newfoundland and Labrador following meetings with officials in St. John’s during the Hospitality NL Convention. Our lobbying efforts federally, provincially and municipally in 2024 will be focusing on inflation relief and labour issues. 

Also, a big thanks to all the participants who took the time to share their thoughts with our Regional Engagement Committee and who are helping define our advocacy efforts.

RANS 2024 Nova Scotia Restaurant Awards
Congratulations to the winning restaurants!
Congratulations to all the winners of the Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia (RANS) 2024 Nova Scotia Restaurant Awards. It was a big night at the Westin Hotel in Halifax for all!


From Tracy Macgregor | Chief Operating Officer 

As Kelly mentioned, we are celebrating the deferral of the scheduled March 1 annual basic beer tax increase for both 2024 and 2025 – a welcome relief for the industry.

Regional Engagement Committee Meeting
Committee focused on key pre-budget submission asks and promotion of government grant opportunities for operators.
The Ontario Regional Engagement Committee met on February 5th with a focus on 2024 Federal and Provincial priorities. The group discussed key asks in the pre-budget submission to address profitability, labour and growth-enabling policy.  

Also discussed was how to help connect members with federal and provincial grant opportunities  available to foodservice operators.

Working for Workers Four Act
Restaurants Canada is voicing concerns about Bill 149 language.
Restaurants Canada will be speaking to the Standing Committee on Social Policy for Public Hearings regarding Bill 149, Working for Workers Four Act, 2023 next week. We have concern about one specific area of the Bill that may have a negative impact on operators due to the current language used around tipping. 

Restaurants Canada is working with ORHMA to ask for clarity in the wording to ensure that there are no unfavourable implications relating to CRA rules that would result in adding significant costs to Ontario foodservice operators.  We have provided our detailed recommendations to the Ministry.

Toronto: Single-Use & Takeaway Items Bylaw approved
Sign up for the City of Toronto webinar to prepare your business.
In December 2023, Toronto City Council approved a new Single-Use and Takeaway Items Bylaw  that will restrict single-use and takeaway items through measures that include requiring the acceptance of reusable bags and beverage cups and distributing items in an “ask-first/by-request” manner. 

On February 22nd, the City of Toronto will be running a webinar to provide businesses and the public with a better understanding of the new bylaw and its impacts.

The purpose of the webinar is to: outline the bylaw requirements that business will need to comply with as of March 1, 2024, answer questions regarding the bylaw, provide access to information and resources, provide information on future stages of the strategy and how you can provide feedback, and to share information on the new Circular Food Innovators funding. Register today!

From Mark von Schellwitz | Vice-President, Western Canada

Mark returns today following a well-earned week of vacation.

I would like to thank all of you who have taken the time to send in peer nominations for the 2024 Restaurants Canada Emerging Leader and Culinary Awards of Excellence. A simple nomination goes a long way in recognizing the extraordinary individuals within our operations and can make a significant difference in their professional confidence and career. If you haven’t sent in a nomination, but would like to, nominations are open until February 23 at 11:59 pm. Learn more about the nomination criteria and nominate here.

I also encourage you to register for a Restaurants Canada webinar, Rules for Tips & Grats: What employees and employers must know, on Tuesday, Feb 27th at 1 PM EST. This workshop session will introduce you to Atlas Direct Tips and demonstrate how it can automate tip division, distribution and compliance for any type of operation. Additionally, you’ll gain insights from James Rhodes of Taxation Lawyers, a seasoned tax expert with extensive experience in guiding hospitality businesses through the intricacies of tipping legislation and author of Restaurants Canada’s tipping toolkit. Learn more and register here.

In closing, I’d like to remind you it’s not too late to encourage a culinary star to participate in one of the incredible competitions at RC Show 2024. The Fried Chicken Sandwich Competition brings the enduring chicken sandwich craze to the stage, where chefs will battle it out for $5,000 in cash and prizes. Presented by Chicken Farmers of Canada, Club House for Chefs, and Premium Foods and Direct Poultry, applications are open until February 23rd at 11:59 pm. 

Yours in dedication to a strong, vibrant and successful future for Canadian foodservice, 

Kelly Higginson