Would a four-day work week help solve Canada's hospitality labour shortage? | Gordon S. Lang School of Business and Economics

Would a four-day work week help solve Canada's hospitality labour shortage?

Posted on Tuesday, August 3rd, 2021

Written by Dr. Mark Holmes and Professor Bruce McAdams

Image of a restaurant table with menus on it with a blue overlay and the four square Lang logo in the bottom left corner.

Lang faculty Dr. Mark Holmes and Bruce McAdams from the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management recently had an article published in the Journal of Foodservice Business Research. Their article, titled "Is the foodservice industry perceived as being palatable by those looking to enter it?" examines how young people feel about the work-life balance of the industry.

Their research specifically points to a preference among future foodservice professionals for a shorter, four-day workweek. This research is critical in understanding how the industry can attract younger professionals which is currently facing a labour shortage.

Read the Q&A below to learn more about the findings of their research. 

Tell us a bit about the scope of your research publication.

"While the increase in demographically driven labour shortages looms, the restaurant industry also struggles with being an attractive alternative for young people joining the workforce. To help shed light on this issue, we hope to understand sustainable employment models in the foodservice industry. In our recent publication, ‘Is the foodservice industry perceived as being palatable by those looking to enter it?’, we examined the perceptions of hospitality and culinary students working in, or studying to enter, the restaurant industry. This study provides a broad look at how these students perceive work-life balance, work-family conflict, and the possible solutions to these through alternative scheduling."

What are the findings of your research?

"This study found that the long hours, mid shifts, and work-life balance deter students in culinary and hospitality programs from wanting to enter the industry and that there is a preference for four-day workweeks. Our research determined the following conclusions:

  • Students are attracted to work in the industry because of ‘the opportunity to always learn new things’, ‘the daily feeling of accomplishment’, ‘the opportunity for personal development’, and ‘having a chance to work closely with food’.
  • However, students are deterred from working in the industry because of ‘the long hours,’  ‘management shifts that involve working lunch and dinner shifts on the same day (“mids’)’, ‘the high level of stress involved in working in restaurants and foodservice,’ and 'their compensation (pay and benefits)’.
  • Respondents agreed that family life is negatively affected when working in the restaurant and foodservice industry, stating specifically that managers and chefs work long hours and most holidays, and have schedules that make it difficult to have good work-life balance.

Over 85% of respondents would be looking for a job with less than 55 hours per week upon graduation. Couple this with their desire for work-life balance and scheduling, our research looked to understand what type of schedule would be preferred. After being presented with three different hypothetical schedules (‘regular work schedule,’ ‘four-day workweek,’ and a ‘compressed work schedule’), there was a strong preference for the “four-day workweek” as the preferred schedule, as it was ranked 1st overall while also being ranked 1st by more than half (54%) or second by more than a third (36.6%) of the respondents."


With the increased discussion of 4-day workweeks in Canada, how can your research impact the Canadian hospitality and tourism industry?

"This research showed that there is a desire for work-life-balance from students entering the industry upon graduation. Students believe that a four-day work week would allow them the opportunity to achieve work-life balance, maintain positive relationships with family and friends, and provide a more conducive environment for raising a family. They also believe that this would increase their chance of staying in a management role and in the industry in general. With the devastating impact that COVID has had on the Canadian food service industry, and the unprecedented shortage of workers as the industry re-opens, the findings from this paper suggests that the industry might benefit from finding ways to implement a four-day work week to attract the younger workforce."

Read the full article here

mark holmes



Dr. Mark Holmes is an assistant professor in the School of Hospitality, Food and Tourism Management in the Gordon S. Lang School of Business and Economics. His research explores topics on sustainability in the areas of food, wine, tourism, management, and organizational diversity.

Dr. Holmes has worked for over 10 years in the quick-service food industry as well as contributing to research projects for the Wine Council of Ontario, Prince Edward Country Economic Development Office, Region of Peel, and the Town of Bradford West Gwillimbury. 

bruce mcadams



Professor McAdams joined the faculty in January of 2009 after more than twenty years leadership experience in the Ontario hospitality industry.  After starting his management career in operations and training with Darden Restaurants, McAdams joined Toronto based fine-dining company Oliver & Bonacini Restaurants.  His most recent role was as the company’s Vice President of Operations which he held from 2005 until 2009..

McAdams research activities focus on food waste in restaurants and sustainable employment models in foodservice.  In 2016 he was named "Educator of the Year" by the OHI, and in 2017 he received an "Excellence Award in Service" from the North American chapter for the Principles of Responsible Management Education (United Nations) for his work with the University of Guelph Sustainable Restaurant Project.


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