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Kamloops Vietnamese restaurant latest to close, citing lack of staff

Watercress Vietnamese Restaurant closed its doors for the last time on June 21, 2022.
Watercress Vietnamese Restaurant closed its doors for the last time on June 21, 2022.

A North Kamloops Vietnamese restaurant served its last meals Tuesday afternoon. Vietnamese

Watercress Vietnamese Restaurant owner Jimmy Lam said he closed, June 21, after his regulars rushed in for their last noodle bowls.

The Tranquille Road restaurant has been busy, but Lam's been unable to find the staff he needs.

READ MORE: Kamloops restaurant cites lack of staff, reliance on delivery apps for closure

"We had a couple students working, but... they went back to Asia because it's summer," he said. "I can't find anybody else."

He doesn't need many employees, but after family members who were working full time also left the country, he's been looking for staff.

Watercress is just the latest restaurant in Kamloops to shutter citing staff challenges, following Dynasty Gardens and Passek's Classics. Passek's co-owner Harry Passek told there were several reasons, but chief among them was finding staff.

Finding workers for restaurants isn't just a Kamloops problem.

Restaurants across the province are struggling to find enough employees, even after raising wages, according to B.C. Restaurant and Foodservices Association president Ian Tostenson.

READ MORE: Minimum wage is up — and so are the tips

As tourists flock to B.C. restaurants, business is "roaring," with better sales numbers than before the COVID-19 pandemic, he said, but it's coupled with a "significant labour shortage."

The province's minimum wage recently rose to $15.65 per hour, but he's seen restaurants offering kitchen staff more than $20 per hour and still struggle to fill those spaces. Those hourly wages, of course, don't include tips, which he has seen rise since the pandemic too.

Tostenson blamed B.C.'s aging population on the lack of workers. There are more people either retired or reaching retirement age in Canada than ever, and Kamloops is no different. Around 65% of the Kamloops population is of working age, matching the national average. 

With fewer young people, especially in the 16 to 25 year old cohort, he said there are fewer people looking for work in B.C.'s restaurant industry.

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