Heart of Orléans BIA

 613.617.0608 / 613.899.8442

Explore The Heart of Orléans

Restaurants, Shops and Services in Orléans, Ottawa

Four strategies to help foodservice owners attract and retain employees after COVID-19

We may be phasing out of lockdown, but that doesn’t mean Canada’s foodservice business owners are breathing a sigh of relief just yet. 

Having lost 319,000 jobs across Canada since February 2020, what will it take for these employers to attract and retain staff?

Here are our top four tips. 

  1. Be clear on protecting employee health and safety 

Foodservice staff worked in one of the only places where people could uncover their mouths to eat and drink. 

Most diners respected the rules. But that didn’t protect workers from aggressive anti-maskers. 

With their income tied to tips from well-behaved and unruly customers alike, this left restaurant workers burnt out and distressed.  

Show your commitment to protecting your team’s health and safety by being clear and precise about food safety, cleaning and sanitation, health and personal hygiene, and, critically, mental health supports. 

Find recommended practices, templates and checklists in Restaurants Canada’s reopening guide and a list of mental health resources, links and organizations from industry non-profit Not 9 to 5.

  1. Incentives, incentives, incentives

The foodservice sector operates with razor-thin margins

This scarcity affects business owners and contributes to the socio-economic inequities faced by industry workers who are largely women, racial minorities, and youth. 

Could a General Basic Income help? Decades of research tout its positive impact: from a significant decline in hospital visits, improvements in mental health, and a lower high school dropout rate.

But for smaller restaurants without the means for costly incentives, there are other perks: mentorship opportunities for candidates eager to dive into other parts of the industry (like marketing or restaurant management), community volunteering, and comprehensive performance reviews that encourage role advancement.

  1. Give them a reason to spread the word

Word of mouth is the most powerful marketing tool around. For employees who recommend and refer staff, offer rewards tied to compensation and otherwise, like: days off, gift cards and swag (from your business or fellow small business neighbours), and the chance to get their preferred schedule. 

By working with people they already know and like, your team will benefit from an improved work culture, increasing retention in turn. 

  1. Make it quick and easy for candidates to say yes 

In this new, digital world, candidates want to easily access applications online. 

On your site, is it clear where your applications are, what jobs are available, and what you’re asking from candidates? 

You don’t need to get fancy to stand out. A simple Google Form works wonders, with integrations that trigger automatic thank-you emails. Follow-up quickly, and skip the back-and-forth to book meetings by using scheduling tools like Calendly.

And, remember: Millennials and Gen Z are more than happy to receive updates via email or text

  1. BONUS TIP: Keep it (hyper) local 

For industry staff, commuting is a pain point remedied by working close to home. Make your hiring campaign hyper local, posting posters in your neighbourhood and on local, online neighbourhood groups like those on Facebook. 


Folks in the restaurant industry faced immeasurable stress through the pandemic. 

By establishing systems that value and protect workers’ health, careers, and income, you’ll be able to attract and retain the right workers for your team — getting the support you need to get back to doing what you do best, safely and securely.