Good for newcomer communities

New pilot program teaches newcomers how to run a restaurant


If you’re new to PEI and looking to open your own restaurant, you might be wondering where to start. A new pilot project offered at Row House Steak & Lobster Co is teaching newcomers just how to break into the business successfully on the Island.

By Kai Vere

The eight-week course is called Training in Food Service Entrepreneurship. It was created by the PEI Association for Newcomers to Canada, in partnership with Island Investment Development Inc. and Skills PEI.

The course filled up quickly with entrepreneurs like Nhiem Pham, who moved to P.E.I. two months ago under the provincial nominee program. Pham is from Vietnam, where his wife ran three vegetarian restaurants. The two are looking to open something similar here on P.E.I. So far, he is about four weeks through the course, which he is enjoying. He recommends it for anyone who is new to P.E.I. and looking to start a business.

“This program is very good for newcomer communities because it helps us not only [with] the new restaurant but also [with other] new relationships with the industry. Through [instructors] Billy and Katrina, we got quite a lot of contacts related to the supplier [and] also…the government where we can get the license,” explains Pham. “I really enjoy it, every week we have a class and I’m quite eager to join the class with my friends.”

Pham feels he will be ready to open his restaurant once the course is complete.

“We are quite confident that after the training …we can open a new business in Charlottetown,” he states.

Row House owner Chris LeClair came up with the idea and asked head chef Billy Shields to teach the course. Shields was glad to have the opportunity to share what he’s learned.

“We’ve been doing this for quite a while and just to share our experience and our knowledge as best as we can and hopefully they can walk away from it,” he says. “It’s just a win-win situation.”

According to PEIANC executive director, Craig Mackie, the course offers a solution to a problem experienced by many newcomer clients.

“We see this over and over. [Newcomers] want to start working in the restaurant and the Canadian restaurant business is very different from anything they experience where they came from.”

“Our main mission is to try to give everything possible to newcomers so that they have the tools and the knowledge and are empowered to succeed, and I think it fits very well with what we’re trying to do with this particular pilot,” further explains Mackie.

So far feedback on the project has all been positive, so as long as that continues, it should be a go for next year.

“Everything I’m hearing so far is that we could probably do this every year.”