Tourism businesses on P.E.I. feeling the pinch as workers head back to school

·2 min read
Hannah Thompson says Piatto Pizzeria in Charlottetown has been short-staffed throughout the summer. (Laura Meader/CBC - image credit)
Hannah Thompson says Piatto Pizzeria in Charlottetown has been short-staffed throughout the summer. (Laura Meader/CBC - image credit)

It's been about two months since the "now hiring" sign went up outside Piatto Pizzeria in Charlottetown. But Hannah Thompson, a server and supervisor at the restaurant, says they've been looking for staff for much longer than that.

"We've had job postings up for many months … probably about four months, maybe almost six months just on job postings online," she said.

The restaurant is not alone. Across the Island, as younger workers head back to school, many businesses are having to make difficult decisions about reducing their opening hours or operations.

Thompson said they could use about 15 more workers, but only a handful have applied.

"It's hard to get good staff to come in that actually want to work," she said.

"We're still hiring for managers, supervisors, [in the] kitchen, dishwashers, everything like that, but no applications are coming in, which is kind of shocking and a little bit … I don't want to say it's disturbing, but it's sad."

It's not unusual to see staff shortages at this time of year, said Corryn Clemence, CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of Prince Edward Island. But she said this year, the problem has been compounded by increased demand after two years of pandemic-related restrictions.

"We see a lot of our staff go back to school, and as we've really worked to grow into that fall season and expand tourism, it's been a challenge," she said.

She said heading into the fall shoulder season, many businesses are having to reduce their operating capacity or opening hours.

"We've certainly seen it, I was surprised myself even on Labour Day Monday how many businesses were closed."

Clemence said business owners are having to get creative to solve staffing shortages. She said some businesses are offering higher wages, better hours for work-life balance and even using automation and technology to improve service to customers.

Laura Meader/CBC
Laura Meader/CBC

"It's not just about money, I think it's that work-life balance," she said.

"What workers want now has changed a little bit since the pandemic hit. So we're spending a lot of time with our members trying to look at ways to really bring people into the industry and keep the ones we have, because we know it's busy."

With this year's summer tourism season coming to a close, Thompson is confident things at the restaurant will smooth out soon. But she's not sure what next year will bring.

"I am a little worried," she said.

"P.E.I. is built on hospitality. When you come to P.E.I. you want to go out and get some good food and good service. It is kind of worrying what's going to happen the next couple of years with the shortage of staff."