The owner of a Tim Hortons doughnut shop in Estevan, Sask., says he is having a hard time recruiting people to the service industry because of stiff competition for workers from a thriving oil patch.

"We're in a pretty desperate situation, in Estevan, and have been for the last couple of years now," Dennis Willows, who has owned a restaurant in the city for 11 years, told CBC News Wednesday. "We're sitting at 34 people and I should have 45."

Willows is planning to open a second store in October and has been hosting job fairs and looking for workers from abroad to staff his shops.

"We just don't have the workers in Canada," Willows said. "You would think ... people would be moving out here. But we don't see a lot of them."

Willows said he is paying around $12 an hour as a starting wage for staff.

Fast drive-thru service

According to Willows, the staff shortage has led to an efficient serving system.

"We have one of the fastest drive-thrus in southern Saskatchewan," Willows claimed. "My wife has made sure that drive-thru functions extremely well."

He said other restaurants in the city are also facing a worker shortage and some have delayed opening plans because of the problem.

"We're bringing in foreigners," Willows said, when asked how he will open a second store with a shortage of workers. He has been through a government assessment process to determine his eligibility to recruit overseas.

He said the Philippines and Mexico have proven to be good sources for labour.

"We're getting a lot of people from India, now, as well," he added. "It's been a mind-boggling experience."

Willows has also been trying to drum up interest, in Canada, for people to move to Estevan, a city of approximately 11,000 about 200 kilometres southeast of Regina.

"We have great hunting and fishing areas," he noted, adding that the weather is milder than in Regina. "It's a great city to live in."

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