SASKATOON -- With COVID-19 restrictions lifted, two Saskatoon restaurants are seeing more customers – but fewer staff.

“We’re trying to get applications in, putting out feelers for jobs and that. It’s really difficult to find employees who have experience,” said Gary Baba, co-owner of Wendel Clark’s Classic Grill and Bar.

Baba said some of his employees found work in other fields during the pandemic and he feels this may have been common across the industry.

“The pandemic put a damper on a lot of stuff and it kind of slowed everything down, and people maybe went a different way and found different jobs.

“I know a couple of our employees, that were senior employees, found different jobs outside of the field of restaurants and bars.”

He feels many former staff might be waiting on government cheques or are just done with the industry.

“I think a lot of it deals with the government keeping the CERB. That went for a long time, the unemployment. People are still probably catching unemployment and it’s really affected everybody,” Baba said.

“A lot of the people that we have talked to have said they are getting out of the business now, they’ve done it for so many years, that’s what I’ve noticed too. They are just going their different ways.”

'BITTERSWEET' REOPENING

Taylor Morrison, owner of Living Sky Café, said difficulties hiring new, experienced staff has been so bad they haven’t been able to get back up and running at full capacity.

“It’s very bittersweet, because we are so thankful to be able to reopen, but we are actually still sitting at the same amount of capacity, because we can't physically go back to what we were,” Morrison said.

Morrison said people looking for a job in the hospitality industry have more choice than ever and hiring new staff has become a game of numbers.

“We’ve been hiring for the past six months. As an example, this past week I phoned 18 people. I had three of them return my phone calls. I had two of them show up, one of them was an hour late,” Morrison said.

Morrison agrees with Baba that government assistance has had a role to play in the slow return to work.

“I understand where people have got a little bit complacent with the fact that sitting on EI is a lot more convenient than showing up to work,” Morrison said.

“By all means I am not knocking them, I think that 100 per cent there are people that need it and I’m 100 per cent for them to be able to have that asset, but at some point all the people who had jobs pre-Covid should be able to go out and get a job again post-Covid.”

Morrison said the timing of the lack of job-seekers with the pandemic finally relenting is just salt in the wound.

“We worked so hard to get through a pandemic that has never happened in a lot of people’s lifetimes. To have it come out the other end and to have peoples reactions and their attitudes be the way they are, it’s really hard,” Morrison said.

“A lot of people are saying ‘support local’, but you have to show up and work then, that’s also a way of supporting. It’s not just coming and eating and dinning, its also going back to work to support the economy.”