Staff shortage doesn’t worry new franchise

It’s going to take at least 70 employees to run Earls, the mid-priced franchise restaurant slated to open in Whitehorse later this year.

It’s going to take at least 70 employees to run Earls, the mid-priced franchise restaurant slated to open in Whitehorse later this year.

“Staffing is definitely going to be an issue,” said co-owner Rob Fahr. “There’s a ton of different positions to fill — servers, sous chefs, head chef, hostesses, bartenders, the list goes on and on.”

But despite the city’s long-running staff shortage, Fahr and the eatery’s other owners are not worried about finding enough employees to keep the joint running smoothly.

They’re counting on Earls’ reputation to keep resumes coming in.

“I have lots of staffing issues with Pizza Hut,” said Fahr, who has owned and run the chain’s Second Avenue location since 1992.

“But I believe with Earls — a pretty well-known name — and the excitement, I don’t think we’ll have a problem staffing it,” said Fahr.

“I have a feeling that once we have an ad in the paper, we’ll be overwhelmed with the applications that come in.”

In July, the Yukon’s unemployment rate was 4.5 per cent — one and a half percentage points below 6.0, the rate for Canada, and one percentage point below 5.5, the rate in July 2006.

“Our goal will be the same in Whitehorse as it is at every one of our restaurants — we want to make it the best place to work in town,” said co-owner Dan Connelly in an interview from British Columbia.

Currently, Connelly manages a staff of 100 at the Earls in Prince George — a city of more than 70,000.

With the population just above 20,000, can Whitehorse support the new franchise restaurant?

“It’s scary, we’ve been asking that question a lot and all of the people that we’ve talked to have said that Whitehorse is different,” said Connelly.

“They say that people are going to spend their money in town and people are excited and don’t let the population numbers fool you.”

But the Yukon capital is not a place that the large chain — with more than 50 locations in the western United States and Canada, and plans to expand into the East — would usually set up shop.

The Whitehorse location will be one of just a dozen franchise restaurants in the chain.

“We’re almost all corporate stores,” said Connelly.

It was Whitehorse’s supportive business community and Fahr’s experience that convinced Connelly and the Earls chain that setting up a franchise in Whitehorse would be viable.

“Meeting Rob and getting a feel for him and what he was going to bring to the table is what sold us on the deal,” said Connelly.

“That’s basically what convinced us to go ahead with it.”

For Fahr, Earls was an obvious choice for Whitehorse.

Since opening Pizza Hut in 1992, “I’ve seen Whitehorse grow and realized there was a need for some other quality restaurants in town,” he said.

After researching the market and getting a few other partners on board, Fahr settled on Earls.

“I thought it would be an excellent choice for up here,” he said.

Representatives from Earls flew up to scout the scene in Whitehorse in May, and the restaurant was a go from there.

The 510-square-metre eatery will fill the front half of Spook Creek Station’s first storey.

Although Earls is a chain, each location looks a bit different.

“They all have unique characteristics,” said Fahr. “Up here we want to create a nice modern atmosphere as if you’re going down to the city, but at the same time we don’t want to go too crazy and start scaring the people of Whitehorse.”

In a perfect world the new restaurant would open its doors in December, and install a patio overlooking the Yukon River by spring.

“Whitehorse is still pretty booming, but if the contractors and other things fall into place, I think we could do it by that date,” said Fahr.

“I think myself and Earls as a company prefers to open during slower times.

“I think any new restaurant that opens in Whitehorse sets the record for sales.

“We’re a small town, but word travels fast and everyone gets pretty excited.”