The federal government’s suspension of the temporary foreign worker program is causing worry beyond the fast-food restaurant industry — it’s affecting full size restaurants that use foreign workers too.

Halifax-based Cha Baa Thai has struggled to find local experts in cooking Thai food. It flew out chefs from Toronto, but they decided not to stay in the Maritimes. 

Cha Baa Thai owner May Dao said their three Cha Baa Thai restaurants employ about 45 people. Of those, 12 are foreign workers. 

"For waitresses, for kitchen helpers, dishwashers, assistant cooks, we're hiring all local people. But we're only hiring a major, major chef, who's doing the sauce, who's doing stir fry,” she said.

Dao's husband and business partner Wen Prathumma said they might have to close one of their locations without those chefs.

The industry association Restaurants Canada says a "broad strokes" approach will hurt businesses.

Good guys get punished

Peter Cheng is with Immigration Consultant Atlantic. He said employers who are legitimately using the system are going to be hurt. 

"Always someone's going to play dirty. But instead of going after the big guys, and doing the audits and doing the proper thing, they decided to say OK, nobody gets to play now,” he said.

In a statement Thursday, the government said the moratorium will last until the review of the program is complete, but there has been no indication of how long that may be.

Those with work permits that will expire this fall are waiting to see what happens so they can re-apply for the program as soon as possible.