While Alberta’s budget showed a commitment to responsible fiscal management and some help to alleviate skyrocketing inflationary costs, targeted support for the restaurant industry was missing, says Restaurants Canada.
“We’re not saying the budget was bad, but we would have certainly appreciated more sector-specific support in recognition of how much the industry is still struggling to regain profitability since the pandemic. We’re still in a fragile state,” said Mark von Schellwitz, vice-president, Western Canada.
“We had restaurants closing and we’ve got a lot of members still very much hanging on by their fingernails. We want some sort of action from all levels of government to ensure we can stay in business and keep being the third largest private sector employer in the province.”
He said in Saskatchewan’s 2022 budget the VLT operator commission rate increased to 18 per cent from 15. In Alberta, there hasn’t been an increase for years despite the huge increase in costs for the hospitality industry.
The industry also has a job vacancy rate of 10.5 per cent which is double the industrial average, he said.
“We’re still short about 18,000 staff in Alberta. While we do recognize there are things underway to try and improve that, we were hoping for some more relief specifically targeting small businesses in the budget.”
Von Schellwitz said the labour shortage will continue for the next decade with fewer young people in the workforce and a faster process is needed to bring foreign workers into the province for tourism and hospitality businesses.
Restaurants Canada would also like the provincial government to encourage municipalities to adopt a consistent single-use item standard and harmonize waste management practices to avoid implementing a patchwork of different packaging bylaws that increase red tape and add to the operating costs of restaurants.
Brandon Bouchard, Tribe restaurant manager and Red Deer Downtown Business Association (DBA) president, said while it’s not difficult to attract workers at his restaurant, it’s still hard to find the right workers.
He said this time of year is always a slow period for restaurants and looks forward to busy summer.
“We’re really excited about summer downtown with all the new events being planned and the city and DBA working so hard together to make this one of the greatest summers yet. We’re super excited for that and we need it,” Bouchard said.
Everyone in the industry has struggled in the last couple of years and it’s unfortunate the provincial budget didn’t offer more, he said.
“Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve been kind of left on our own to figure things out without as much help as we’d expect. Everybody’s had to pivot and everybody’s had to work really hard just to stay afloat.”