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This Port Coquitlam restaurant is hiking starting wage above B.C.'s minimum amidst labour shortage

Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurant raises starting wage to $16 and offers bonuses for referrals as it opens in Port Coquitlam amidst industry-wide worker shortage
Chipotle Mexican Grill boosts starting wage above B.C.'s minimum just as it plans to open a restaurant in Port Coquitlam.

Pandemic re-opening combined with a shortage of workers is prompting some restaurateurs to boost compensation packages to lure new employees.

In a press release today, Chipotle Mexican Grill announced it was increasing its minimum hourly rate to $16 — up from $15.20 — in all its British Columbia restaurants.

Chipotle is opening its first Chipotlane in Canada in Port Coquitlam this fall.

The wage hike, along with benefits, a clear pathway to management and referral bonuses to staff who refer crew members are part of the company’s efforts to stay competitive amidst a worker shortage.

Ian Tostenson, president and CEO of the British Columbia Restaurant and Foodservices Association, said the $16 starting wage is a good one for fast-food servers but benefits, reliable scheduling and a career path are also key to hiring and retention.

“The industry is faced with a huge labour shortage, a massive labour shortage, it’s a crisis,” said Tostenson.

Before the pandemic, there were approximately 190,000 restaurant and food service workers in the province. Shut downs took their toll and many workers didn’t come back.

The industry is short about 40,000 people — or about 25% to 30% of its work force.

“We don’t have enough people in B.C. to fuel the economy,” said Tostenson, noting that the labour shortage extends to other industries as well.

“We need to become the employer of choice,” he said.

Tostenson advised restaurant owners to “create careers” instead of just short-term job solutions and he said he would like to see the industry move towards a more European-style situation where people earn their livelihoods at restaurants throughout their working life.

“We’re slowly moving in that direction,” he said

Tostenson advised young people in the industry to look beyond a restaurant job as simply a short-term situation.

“It’s a fun industry, it’s a challenging industry, it’s a great experience, you learn people skills, marketing skills, financial skills — a lot of people start off as a server and make their way up.”

The wage hike announcement comes as the California-based Chipotle Mexican Grill puts the finishing touches to its restaurant on the north side of Lougheed Highway 

Late last year, Chipotle obtained city approvals to renovate a former KFC/Taco Bell restaurant at 2325 Ottawa St. to permit a drive-thru, a landscaped seating area and numerous building improvements.

Chipotlanes are supposed to offer fast service to customers who download the app to order.

According to a company press release, Chipotle's crew members can advance to a Restaurateur, the highest general manager position, in as little as three-and-a-half years, with an average compensation of more than $100,000 annually.

The wage increases for new and existing crew members and hourly managers in Canada officially go into effect today (Monday, Aug. 16).