A serious shortage of kitchen staff has seen renowned Moeraki restaurateur Fleur Sullivan resort to washing the dishes herself.
“We’re going into summer with a skeleton staff. It’s terrifying at the moment.
“I’ve been doing the dishes flat out.”
Sullivan, who is advertising for three chefs and also needs a dish washer and a kitchen hand, is desperate to bolster her team before the visitor peak hits bringing more than 200 diners a day.
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Restaurant Association chief executive Marisa Bidois said staff shortages were an issue throughout the country, but small towns and isolated areas were really struggling to recruit cafe, bar and restaurant workers.
In a recent survey 65 per cent of hospitality businesses reported extreme difficulty hiring chefs with positions advertised repeatedly to find suitable candidates.
Only eight of 159 businesses surveyed paid more than $30 an hour for management roles and 60 per cent of vacancies were filled by immigrants on work visas.
Bidois said the industry would collapse without the labour they provided, especially in small towns which relied on transient workers who were often backpackers.
Tourism New Zealand (TNZ) is encouraging international visitors to get out into the regions to take the pressure off places such as Queenstown, and that was adding to the problem, Bidois said.
“How do we serve them, and do our people have the staff to keep up with the numbers? That answer now is no.”
Despite providing accommodation in six houses for staff at her award winning restaurant, Sullivan said it was hard for a small fishing village like Moeraki to compete with the likes of Queenstown.
“They don’t have to provide accommodation or anything there because it’s the glamour place where young people want to go.”
More than half her diners were Asian visitors, so she needed waitresses with the necessary language skills.
But she said it had taken five months to convince Immigration New Zealand to issue a work visa for a young Asian woman because she could not find a Kiwi waitress fluent in Cantonese, Mandarin or Korean.
“It’s so stressful and so hard, it just exhausts you.”
Sullivan last week hired Maribelle Winters as restaurant manager.
The 28-year-old German was a public relations consultant in her home city of Essen, but had hospitality experience from working weekends working in cafes and restaurants.
Winters said she planned to remain in Moeraki for the next year. “It’s just a beautiful little spot, it has everything; the beach, you can go mountain biking and there are mountains, and lakes in Central Otago. I like the atmosphere, it feels special.”
Sullivan is hoping she can find other staff who are equally enthusiastic about village life, but admits it will be tough.
“A lot of the overseas ones with work visas want a change from chefing, so they go and pick fruit.”
Chris Smith teaches a diploma of cookery at Otago Polytechnic’s Central Otago campus and he has had hospitality outlets queuing to hire his students.
“We’re getting multiple calls from Otago managers looking for staff.”
Smith said one of eight recent graduates was earning $25 an hour, well above minimum wage, which reflected the shortage of suitable staff.
Bidois said hospitality operators wanted to employ locals, but often did not have time to train them on the job if they lacked experience.
The Restaurant Association had run 10 one month-long courses teaching basic hospitality skills to Work and Income clients in Auckland, Tauranga and Hamilton.
More than half the 120 Auckland participants had found jobs, Bidois said, and they planned to run the courses in other regions.
Published at Sat, 17 Dec 2016 22:09:07 +0000