Starved of help, Yellowknife restaurant operators move on


Two Yellowknife restaurateurs are moving on, saying the constant battle to recruit staff during the current labour shortage has proved too much.

Yousry Abdelmegid, owner of the city’s Mainstreet Pizza restaurant, says the family business is for sale after months of dealing with staff shortages.

Abdelmegid has been running the pizza shop since 2017. At that time, he says, finding staff was much easier. Currently, Abdelmegid says he has just one full-time and two part-time staff members.

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“It’s difficult because all of us small businesses are competing with the big cities, with the big competition. It’s the worst,” he told Cabin Radio.

“With so little staff, I have to close down the business if I go out of town for a couple of days because there isn’t enough people to run it.”

Abdelmegid says that while finding reliable staff has been a struggle, he has stopped receiving résumés altogether.

“I don’t know what’s happening. Where are the people? There are so many options for people nowadays for fast cash and no commitment,” he said.

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“Nobody wants a job that starts and ends at a certain hour any more. The people that used to work for me, some of them are driving as delivery drivers and stuff now. It’s all cash, and people love cash.”

Abdelmegid says if he is able to hire more staff he would consider not selling the restaurant. However, his frustrations have caused him to become resentful of the business.

“I get so angry about it, and the government isn’t stepping in to help [small businesses],” he said.

“People would rather go work at the mines or down in the south because there’s more money there for them.”

Chris Zouboules, owner of the Cliff Café at the NWT Legislative Assembly, says he decided to close his restaurant because he felt burned out.

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Relying mostly on part-time staff, Zouboules says hiring since the pandemic has been difficult.

“I think staffing is an issue for everybody, because no one wants to do the work unless they’re passionate about it,” said Zouboules.

“They don’t want to get dirty. They look at it and go, ‘I can do something else in my life, I don’t need that job,’ so that’s a big frustration and I just hit a wall. I was doing everything myself and I’m really tired.”

Zouboules says he is going to take some time to recharge before deciding on his next steps.

“A lot of it has to do with my creativity. I couldn’t be creative any more,” he explained.

“I found that I was redoing some things, over and over again, and not expanding the way I wanted to when I came over here. So I’m just going to take a break and try to find some fun in it again.”

The Legislative Assembly issued a request for proposals in October for an operator to take over the building’s café space. The deadline for proposals to be received is Friday this week.