Ontario may be increasing the minimum wage for food and liquor servers, but one University of Guelph hospitality researcher says higher wages will not be enough to address the restaurant industry’s labour crisis.

Dr. William Murray is a hospitality professor in the Gordon S. Lang School of Business and Economics who researches talent management and sustainable labour issues with the School of Hospitality, Food and Tourism Management.

Dr. William Murray
Dr. William Murray

He said that although the current labour shortage is the most pressing issue facing the restaurant industry, restaurants and hotels had trouble attracting and retaining workers long before the pandemic.

“The industry already had an ‘image problem’ around lower-than-average compensation and long hours,” he said.

“Raising minimum wage rates is a good start to help address pay issues. But it is an increase that is only slightly higher than the rising cost of living. This is the bare minimum that can be done, and it will not solve our labour challenge.”

The pandemic changed the career trajectory of millions of restaurant workers, pushing them to consider new directions and career trajectories, he added.

“Workers have had time to take a long look at the pros and cons of working in hospitality and the value proposition needs a serious update to bring them back.”

It will be hard to attract talent back into the industry with minimum wage compensation “unless there is more to offer to draw them back,” he said.

Key to finding and retaining talent will be investing more in relationships and personal connections at work for employees. “When it gets down to it, meaning and identity are the only things that create real organizational commitment and loyalty,” Murray said.

“There needs to be more on offer, including enriching work, an engaging and personally supportive environment, and the ability for people to find some meaning and enjoyment in what they do.”

Murray is available for interviews.


Dr. William Murray