Alberta restaurants brace for large labour cost increase while economy continues to slide

EDMONTON, Sept. 30, 2015 /CNW/ - Alberta restaurants, still adjusting to lagging sales due to a declining economy, must now brace for significant labour cost increases that come into effect with tomorrow's minimum wage increases.

The $1.00 rise in the general minimum wage is 10 times inflation and the $1.50 rise in the liquor server wage is 16 times inflation.

"Restaurant owners aren't opposed to minimum wage increases, but they want them to be introduced at a pace that's manageable for labour-intensive businesses operating on very thin profit margins," said Mark von Schellwitz, vice president Western Canada for Restaurants Canada.

Since last May, when the new Alberta government promised a minimum wage increase to $15 an hour by 2018, Alberta's economy has deteriorated significantly. Employment Insurance claims increased by 72% between July 2014 and July 2015, and the unemployment rate increased to 6.0% in August 2015 as compared to 5.2% in August 2014.

"Tomorrow's minimum wage increase will undoubtedly lead to higher prices and fewer job opportunities. It comes at a bad time for Albertans who are struggling to cope with the worst economic decline in years," said von Schellwitz. "Our members are once again asking the government to slow down the pace of these planned increases, and to work with us to find ways to grow the labour market, not shrink it."

Restaurants Canada will monitor the repercussions of tomorrow's increases, and will work with the Alberta government on solutions to protect employment, particularly for young people looking for their first jobs.

Foodservice Facts:

Number of foodservice businesses in Alberta: 10,200
Number of people employed in the restaurant industry: 149,700
Number of young Albertans age 15 – 24 employed in the restaurant industry: 58,000

Restaurants Canada is a growing community of 30,000 foodservice businesses, including restaurants, bars, caterers, institutions and suppliers. We connect our members from coast to coast, through services, research and advocacy for a strong and vibrant restaurant industry. Canada's restaurant industry directly employs 1.2 million Canadians, is the number one source of first jobs, and serves 18 million customers every day.

SOURCE Restaurants Canada

For further information: Media Contact: Mark von Schellwitz, Vice President, Western Canada, office 1-866-300-7675, cell 604-809-5719 or mark@restaurantscanada.org; Beth Pollock, Communications Specialist at 1-800-387-5649 ext. 4254, or email media@restaurantscanada.org.

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