Pilot project preps newcomers to run a restaurant

A new pilot project is teaching newcomers the ins and outs of running a food business on the Island.

'The more successful newcomers can be in owning or taking part in working … on P.E.I., the better it is'

A new course offered by the P.E.I. Association for Newcomers to Canada and Skills PEI, is teaching newcomers the ins and outs of running a food business on the Island. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC)

A new pilot project is teaching newcomers the ins and outs of running a food business on the Island.

The eight-week course is a partnership between the P.E.I. Association of Newcomers to Canada, Skills PEI and Island Investment Development Inc. 

Amy MacLean, the manager of employment services with the association, said registration for the 16-person course filled up within hours. 

She said one of the biggest things newcomers are interested in is learning about workplace culture on P.E.I.

"Depending on where they immigrated from it could be very different," she said.

"The importance of learning about how to run a business here and deal with customers in Canada and on P.E.I., is very important to the success of any business they might want to do."

'It just brings more to the table'

The course runs four days per week and covers everything from food safety to hiring staff. 

Chris LeClair, the owner of Row House Lobster Co., where the course is being held, came up with the idea after seeing a gap in the industry.

He said the total cost of the program is approximately $25,000.

Billy Shields, executive chef at Row House Lobster Co., helped put the program together and said so far, it's received great feedback. 

Billy Shields helped to put the course together and says it's getting great feedback from participants. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC)

"A lot of these people come from places that have year-round operations, where the Island is a lot of seasonal restaurants," he said.

"So, they're starting to realize how it will affect any interests that they have and what style of operation they will continue with."

Shields said it's encouraging to see the interest from immigrants in wanting to get involved in the food industry on P.E.I.

"We are always looking for people to come to the Island and live. Create jobs, create opportunities and with that comes the diversity and we are experiencing that now," he said.

"It just brings more to the table."

'It's very good for the community'

Nhiem Pham signed up for the course in order to better understand the rules around running a restaurant. 

"The process of you know … how to get the licence … food safety, health conditions," he said. 

Nhiem Pham is from Vietnam and moved to the Island almost two months ago. He said the course has been helpful in learning about the restaurant industry here. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC)

Pham is from Vietnam where his wife used to run three vegetarian restaurants. 

He said he'd liked to open something similar in the future. 

"What we observe on the market are few vegan restaurants so that is a very good opportunity for us," he said. 

The more successful newcomers can be, in owning or taking part in working and business on P.E.I., the better it is for everybody.- Amy MacLean, P.E.I. Association of Newcomers to Canada

He said as someone who's only been on the Island for a few months, courses like this provide an opportunity to meet locals in the industry and build contacts. 

"It's very good for the community, especially for the newcomers because we are very new here," he said.

Heonan Jin enrolled in the course and hopes to open a restaurant as well. 

He said the course was 'very useful' as there are more industry requirements in Canada compared to China.

MacLean said it's a win-win for everyone.

"The more successful newcomers can be in owning or taking part in working … on P.E.I., the better it is for everybody," she said.

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With files from Jessica Doria-Brown