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Dispensing with the Notion of Us vs Them


We’re all in the same industry boat. Influencers like Trevor Lui show us how to help one another stay afloat—together—in turbulent waters.

By Stacey Newman

If there is a person who embodies the title of positive disruptor in foodservice, it’s Trevor Lui. Lui has spent his career over the last 20 years (and counting) in hospitality. He has worked in every part of the house: for hotels, casinos, restaurants, in catering and convention centres. He is a consultant to major brands.

Trevor Lui knows his stuff. More than that, Lui is referred to by his peers as an all-around nice guy, and a staunch advocate for restaurateurs in Canada. He’s worn just about every hat in hospitality, from dishwashing to cook to building business strategies. Lui believes in building bridges within the industry. He has consulted in governmental affairs projects regarding the legislation that surrounds restaurants and foodservice operations in Canada. Influencers like him are arguably our industry’s greatest-but-underutilized resources.

Lui especially wants independent owners to understand that legislation is paramount in this business. Mismanaging or ignoring legislation will hurt your business—this is an inevitability. Yet too many owner/operators seem to be heedless or outright unaware when it comes to the laws surrounding operations. “There is an overwhelming myth out there that restaurant owners are rolling in dough. Most independent owners would scoff at this notion. It’s a wonder—with the long hours and the slim margins—that anyone chooses to operate an independent restaurant at all. Independents need help.”

Lui also takes on the media for conflating issues around legislation—such as Bill 12, or minimum wage—and industry discussions. There are operators that have engaged in bad practices and Lui has no problem with them being called out. Operators must take responsibility for their operations, for what they do and how they treat their employees and this starts with education. Mishandling operations hurts not only staff who are directly affected but also the industry as a whole. Lui makes no bones about this. He also makes a point of calling out the treatment of restaurateurs in the media. Take the minimum wage discussion. Too often portrayals of restaurateurs being “opposed” to a living wage for staff are supremely unfair and inaccurate, when it is, in fact, the pace of implementation—what was promised by the provincial government versus the reality of how the new minimum wage rates have been rolled out—that will devastate restaurateurs.

How do we respond? By sharing information, by educating one another, by advocating as a collective and by dispensing of any notions of us versus them between types of operations, between FOH and BOH and between owners and staff. We really are in the same boat, and together we can survive turbulent seas.

Lui is worried for Canadian restaurant employees. When it comes to Canadian restaurateurs, he says every owner should take it upon themselves to fully understand their rights and responsibilities. There are those who are indeed doing things wrong. Then there are those who mismanage their operations because of a lack of knowledge. “What many restaurant owners may not understand is the economic impact our businesses have in Canada. As job creators and tax payers, we also provide areas of social gathering. Restaurants are our society’s economic and social hubs. Whenever our industry gets bad press, it hurts us all. The message is easy, educate yourself and be a good employer.”

Why is Lui an advocate? Because he’s been in this industry his entire life. He grew up in the industry. “Even though I am largely on the hospitality side, we employ people, we employee kids from high school to college through to employing them as owners…Sometimes people think that business owners can’t make mistakes. We make mistakes. We’re not perfect, we wish we could be perfect.”

Lui wants to help his colleagues get ahead of legislation like Bill 12 and Bill 148 through education, by building bridges and a positive community. He wants to shift the industry culture in a direction where all types and sizes of operators understand that standing together is in everyone’s best interest. “There are of course bad practices out there…However, I think, intrinsically, most business owners try harder to do right than not…Know the rules, know your legislation, know your rights as employees and employers, ask questions,” says Lui.

Consumers are part of the equation, and the idea of us vs. them is just that—an idea. People go to places where the owners do business from their hearts, and not their wallets. Menus are driven by a sense of community, food and beverages that foster a sharing culture. “When you have a hub, good people will come to it, it becomes a destination. Restaurants do that. Put a flag in the ground and change the neighbourhood.” Being good to one another in this industry starts with unpacking and dispensing with the notion of us versus them. To the media and the general public, Lui says to “look for humanity in restaurant owners and employees. What we lack today is open communication, face to face interaction about issues…. [Owners need to] find a mediator like Restaurants Canada to get everyone together to talk at the table. Advocacy is vital. Advocacy is especially important for smaller operators.”

What’s on your radar?

Bill 12 has major implications for owner/operators. “I’m the director of operations of the largest independently-owned convention facility in Canada. We have produced 750 events. We have over 300 staff including the food and beverage department. So, getting ahead of Bill 12 was our intention well in advance of the legislation going through, simply because we’re in the event business that sells a lot of catering.” Why does Bill 12 have a specific impact in catering? Because in the catering world there is a service charge applied to the bill; owners/operators must manage the bills around service charges.

Lui not only understands the implications in regards to his own operations, he uses his knowledge and brings it to restaurateurs who don’t have access to the same experience and resources. “We need to equip people with the right stuff. We were at the table with governing bodies, lobbying groups like Restaurants Canada, carving out tools so there would be less confusion when Bill 12 came out.”


Bill 12 is the Tips and Gratuities Bill. Though Bill 12 is Ontario-specific, similar legislation exists across the country in every province or territory. Workers in Canada are protected by the employment laws of their province or territory.


As of June 2016, reforms to the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA) enacted by Bill 12, the Protecting Employees’ Tips Act, 2015, prohibit employers from withholding, making deductions from, or collecting tips or other gratuities from employees unless authorized to do so under the ESA or its regulations.


Bill 12 covers all industries in which tips are given, but it is closely associated with restaurants, therefore restaurants seem to be the primary focus for media in discussions around Bill 12, for better or for worse.


Legislation is difficult to understand. When it comes to Bill 12, Lui credits industry leaders like Tony Elenis, president and CEO of the Ontario Restaurant Hotel and Motel Association (ORHMA), and other industry stakeholders who have engaged the ministry, working together to ensure that the legislation is fair to both employers and employees. Bill 12 covers all industries in which tips are given, but it has always been associated with restaurants and it is restaurants that get the most media on this issue, for better and for worse. One of the results of these work groups is a published FAQ resource on Bill 12 that Lui says should be read by every owner and operator. Read the FAQs here:



Plan for your labour costs with the Restaurants Canada Minimum Wage Outlook Bulletin.


General Minimum Wage $11.35

Tipped Employees $10.10


General Minimum Wage $13.60

Planned increase to $15 as of Oct. 1/18


General Minimum Wage $10.96


General Minimum Wage $11.15


General Minimum Wage $14

Planned increase to $15 on Jan. 1/19

Liquor Server Wage $12.20

Planned increase to $13.05 on Jan. 1/19

Student Server Wage $13.15

Planned increase to $14.10 on Jan. 1/19


General Minimum Wage $11.25

Planned increase to $12.00 on May 1/18

Tipped Minimum Wage $9.45

Planned increase to $9.80 on May 1/18


General Minimum Wage $11


General Minimum Wage $11.25

Planned increase to $11.55 on Apr.1/18


General Minimum Wage $10.85

Inexperienced Workers (not working

more than three months) $10.35


General Minimum Wage $11.00


General Minimum Wage $11.32


General Minimum Wage $12.50

Planned increase to $13.46 on Apr.1/18


General Minimum Wage $13



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