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Quebec Fast Food Chains Face Staff Shortages [Updated]

KFC and McDonald’s outlets have even shut down

A KFC in Granby, Quebec

Unemployment rates are way down in Quebec, and that could be a problem for the restaurant industry, with some parts of the province facing a labour shortage for all sorts of burger-flipping, coffee-pouring positions.

According to Radio-Canada, one PFK (or KFC) restaurant in Lévis, near Quebec City, had to shut its doors completely because it was unable to come up with enough staff to operate properly. Richard Hébert, the operations director for Olympus Food, which manages 64 KFCs in Quebec, told the public broadcaster that it was a decision of last resort.

Other PFKs around Quebec City also had to reduce their hours due to staff shortages. Radio-Canada reported that Olympus Foods is offering wages above the minimum, alongside flexible hours, to try to fix the problem. That’s a wise idea — managerial positions excluded, fast food jobs are often minimum wage and without tips, so it might encourage people not to flee to better-tipped or better-paying parts of the industry, or even to other industries.

Radio-Canada notes that the shortage varies between regions, with the Quebec City area being one problem area (a month ago, Le Journal de Québec highlighted a shortage of chefs and cooks in the city). Abitibi is another one — earlier this month, a McDonald’s in Val d’Or was forced shut due to a lack of staff.

Martin Vézina, spokesperson for the Quebec Restaurant Association (ARQ), tell Eater that a lack of young staff is a particular problem, and that shortages are worst in kitchen jobs.

“When we see that waitstaff who earn $25 per hour while cooks earn $15 — this causes problems with workers in the kitchen, they say ‘hey, I’d rather work in the front’.”

Vézina says the problem is set to increase: by 2025, 8,000 restaurant jobs will go unfilled, rising to 18,000 empty jobs by 2035. He adds that at present, while the media focuses on staff shortages and closures in chain restaurants, the same problem exists for independent restaurants.

The situation is less acute in Montreal, for two reasons. First, the unemployment rate is higher than other parts of the province, and second, there are more immigrants in Montreal, who Vézina says are more inclined to pick up jobs in the restaurant sector, although Vézina warns that it will impact the city more in future.