Toronto restaurants are officially allowed to reopen for outdoor dining on Friday, but the task of resuming operations in a post-lockdown world is proving to be a difficult one.
Nicki Laborie, the owner of Bar Reyna, told Narcity that she has struggled to hire enough staff ahead of step one due to many of her former employees leaving the food industry during the pandemic.
"It's very stressful, I would say 30 percent of them have left the industries as a whole, and then there is the dog-eat-dog side of it, where I would say we pay very fair, normal salaries, but right now people are overpaying cooks who have less than five years of experience just to get people into their kitchens," she said over the phone.
"We've hired numerous people who have called us up to say 'oh I took a job somewhere else,' or not shown up to their first day of work, it's absolutely crazy how COVID has affected the hospitality industry," she added.
As a result, Laborie says she was forced to push back the reopening date of the restaurant's outdoor patio until Tuesday.
Bar Reyna isn't the only restaurant struggling to hire kitchen staff; Gusto 101 has also found it tough to fill up their kitchen after three lockdowns.
"The last more than a year has been tough on people's mental health and a lot of people are electing to play it safe with their financial income by remaining on the elevated EI or leaving the industry totally for more job security," Tyler Rutherford, director of operations and culture, told Narcity.
"We are fortunate that some have seen the benefits of health and wellness insurance we provide and joined our team but hiring for kitchen roles, in particular, has been tough. The city hasn't made it much easier with decisions shielded by the guise of helping business but really creating too much red tape to juggle along the way."