Letters to the editor: Stories from the front lines of restaurant work


Restaurant owners are not monsters

Re: Restaurants having a hiring problem – and it goes way beyond CERB. CERB didn’t cause a worker shortage, it provided abused workers just enough time to breathe and think and enough rest to let them realize they live in a system of abuse. So they’re leaving the relationship. Does this make it impossible for restaurant owners? Maybe. Small business owners are not monsters or slave drivers. They are working through the system just like the people they hire. They can’t just pay a decent salary. Where does it come from? They are not rich. They’re mostly losing money already, chasing their dream of owning a successful place. They’re wrapped up in the whole thing too and also deserve our empathy. We need a complete overhaul of how things work, and [universal basic income] is good start.

Mike MacDougall – from NOWTORONTO.COM

A lifetime of labour

I dream of a day when cooks get the job/life security that they deserve. I understand that it is transient work to many, but it is also the culmination of a lifetime of learning and labour for so many others who get berated, overworked and underpaid to the tune of a meager 30 grand a year or less.


A system of social pressure

The hiring and work culture for that type of work on this continent is fundamentally broken. If it took a pandemic to make people realize that and finally start to think about initiating some sort of change then so be it. When you have a system whereby social pressure is placed on the customer to prop up employees wages with gratuity so an employer can legally bypass the local minimum wage, that cannot ever be right.


You may say I’m a dreamer

Imagine a world in which this situation never existed, and then someone comes along and says: “Hey, I have a great idea for a business venture. However, in order to make it succeed, I will pay employees a wage so low that they can’t live off of it, and we will have extremely high turnover rates.” How many people would say: “Yeah, that’s a great idea. You should run with that”?


Closing time

I did 28 years in the industry in Toronto and Montreal. I was always paid far less than minimum wage and was expected to give a portion of my tips to the the runners, kitchen, bar and even sometimes front of house – essentially the owners. Most people were scheduled under full-time hours. We were expected to perform opening and closing duties, which often included janitorial work. One pub I worked in, in Montreal, would close at 2 am and the “closing duties” took another 2.5 hours! We were cleaning washrooms, mopping floors, polishing brass, the list goes on. This change was a long time coming. Restaurant workers need to be paid for the work they really do, not paid little enough to keep the owners flush. Although I am no longer in the industry I am happy to see this shift happening even if I have to pay more as a customer.


The workforce will come back

This article neglects so much: 1. Restaurant workers have moved on or went back to school for a better job/career, moved to a different city, literally got a new job, or got training in a new job. 2. Students that would typically occupy universities are not here, and they would also work part-time in the restaurant industry to cover expenses or make a bit while getting an education. 3. International students are not allowed in the country, and these students would also be working in the restaurant industry 4. Visa workers are not here either, and they also occupy a large percentage of a transitory workforce by working in the restaurant. So say what you will, but your workforce is gone and it won’t come back until we are back to normal.


Health benefits for restaurant workers

For low-wage or service-type workers/employers, this should be an inflection point. Instead of talks of worker unions and such and fighting that battle, employers maybe have the key to obtaining a competitive hiring advantage: start a health benefits program for employees. I’ll guarantee the ones that start first will have no issues hiring now.


Brunch was a bust

In my short stint in restaurant work, I was “employed” but my hours were cut arbitrarily from one week to another, and the spotty distribution of hours didn’t make it possible for me to get another part-time job on the side. Also, I would be asked to do “a couple of hours” for weekend brunch, so couldn’t work or do another thing on the weekend because of that “couple of hours,” which left me about $60 in my pocket. So, when people go to a restaurant and pay an exorbitant price for some chow that doesn’t even cover half the plate, but costs an arm and a leg, don’t think that the server or kitchen staff will see a whole lot of that money.

Gabriela Nina Cordero – from FACEBOOK.COM/NOWMAGAZINE

Pay them and they will stay

This is happening everywhere. Too many people being under paid and made to feel that they can be replaced at any time. Pay your people what they are worth, value them and they will stay!

Amber Hannon-Dizep – from FACEBOOK.COM/NOWMAGAZINE

Mask up music fans

Re: Arkells play Toronto’s biggest pandemic concert yet. People have to remember that the vaccine isn’t a cure, it just lessens the symptoms to the point where it isn’t deadly and you need to be hospitalized. You can still get COVID, you can still get the Delta variant and you can still transmit it. People not wearing masks is just asking for another wave. No one is saying live your life in fear – just understand the risks when you’re out there.

Edward Bliss – from NOWTORONTO.COM

NOW welcomes reader mail. Email us at letters [at] nowtoronto [dot] com.




Stay In The Know with Now Toronto

Be the first to know about new and exclusive content