Restaurants are key to restoring Canada’s pre-pandemic employment levels

Published September 7, 2021

Restaurants Canada is seeking sector-specific support from the next federal government to ensure foodservice businesses can help create a million jobs in recovery and prevent labour shortages from becoming a long-term crisis.

TORONTO — Restaurants Canada is calling for sector-specific commitments from all parties seeking to form the next federal government to return foodservice employment to pre-pandemic levels and prevent a long-term labour crisis.

According to the latest Restaurants Canada survey:

  • 80% of respondents said they were finding it difficult to hire back-of-house staff and 67% were having trouble filling front-of-house positions.
  • 42% of respondents said they expect the number of unfilled positions in their establishments to increase over the next year, while 38% said they are unsure if the number of unfilled positions will improve or get worse.

“Restaurants are key to bringing Canadians back to work, but precarious conditions over the past 18+ months have created unprecedented hiring challenges,” said Restaurants Canada President and CEO Todd Barclay. “As Canada’s fourth-largest private sector employer, typically employing 1.2 million people, the hard-hit foodservice industry deserves a plan to recover remaining pandemic job losses and avoid a long-term labour crisis.”

Restaurants are key to closing Canada’s pandemic job loss gap

According to the latest Labour Force Survey data from Statistics Canada, foodservice and accommodation accounted for close to half of all jobs added to the Canadian economy in June and July (136,100 of 325,000), but there are still nearly 230,000 fewer workers in the foodservice sector than before the pandemic.

Bringing Canadians back to work in restaurants would fill nearly all of the 246,000 jobs still missing from the Canadian economy since February 2020; this would fulfill federal election promises to create over a million jobs in recovery and restore the national employment rate to pre-pandemic levels.

Foodservice businesses are key to closing Canada’s pandemic job loss gap, but first they need to survive; at least 10,000 restaurants have closed since March 2020.

In a new video available at, restaurateurs from across the country told us what they need to preserve their livelihoods, restore pandemic job losses and keep contributing to vibrant communities across the country.

Restaurants need a sector-specific strategy to prevent a long-term labour crisis

There were already 68,000 unfilled positions in the foodservice and accommodation sector before the COVID-19 crisis exacerbated the situation — of which nearly 60,000 were foodservice job vacancies; according to the latest data from Statistics Canada, the foodservice and accommodation sector now has nearly 130,000 vacancies, the majority being restaurant jobs.

To help the restaurant sector overcome pre-existing labour shortages exacerbated by the pandemic, Restaurants Canada is calling for a National Foodservice Labour Development Strategy, including measures such as: 

  • Support for the expansion of impactful labour pilot programs, such as the Atlantic Immigration Program and Alberta Foodservice Labour Connections.
  • An increase in federal funding to ensure efficient and effective processing of immigration applications by reducing wait times, administrative burdens, and increasing information-sharing between sponsors.
  • An extension of work visas for a full year and suspension of fees until 2022.
  • The addition of a foodservice stream into the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) to address seasonal and long-term labour shortages, as well as a redesign of the national occupational classification structure to broaden the categories of positions that foodservice employers can use the TFWP to help fill, as well as a lower administrative burden on small businesses who use the TFWP.

For more information on how the next federal government can help save restaurants, visit:

About Restaurants Canada

Restaurants Canada is a national, not-for-profit association advancing the potential of Canada’s diverse and dynamic foodservice industry through member programs, research, advocacy, resources and events. Before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada’s foodservice sector was a $95 billion industry, directly employing 1.2 million people, providing Canada’s number one source of first jobs and serving 22 million customers across the country every day. The industry has since lost hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions in sales due to the impacts of COVID-19.

Restaurants Canada Digital

Nam dapibus nisl vitae elit fringilla rutrum. Aenean sollicitudin, erat a elementum rutrum, neque sem pretium metus, quis mollis nisl nunc et massa. Vestibulum sed metus in lorem tristique ullamcorper id vitae erat.

More from Restaurants Canada Digital



RC Insider gives you snackable bites of must-read industry news and timely research, as well as useful tools and tips, every two weeks.