A recent survey conducted by the Restaurant Association reveals 21 percent of its hospitality operators have seen staff leave to Australia since the borders opened.
It's an unsurprising figure for Unite Union national secretary John Crocker, who says the hospitality industry and its staff have suffered since 2020.
"Hospitality workers have suffered redundancies and reduced hours of work since 2020, a significant proportion are looking for other opportunities, in other sectors and overseas."
Restaurant Association chief executive Marisa Bidois tells Newshub 65 percent of members are concerned about an exodus of workers to Australia for higher salaries.
"We have had some reports of higher wages happening over there."
"We have a number of our members worried about losing key staff to Australia," she added.
Crocker says more hospitality operators should look at implementing the living wage which is $22.75 compared to the minimum wage at $21.20.
"Hospitality could start, as an industry, to pay the living wage and guarantee workers the hours they need each week."
Bidois says the Restaurant Association supports an increase in wages but a number of factors are making it difficult for businesses to do that.
"It's creating a difficult time for our businesses at the moment, they are dealing with debt that they've accumulated over the past few years while trying to navigate COVID, there is inflation they are dealing with as well."
She says it's concerning for operators in New Zealand when the likes of Australian operators are waving a $90,000 salary.
As New Zealand's international border begins to open up, Bidios says the silver lining is that working holiday visa holders will be able to return to New Zealand, and it's easier for Kiwis to come home.
"In hospitality, we are a global network. Our chefs and our people do traditionally travel around the world and then bring that experience home once they've worked overseas for several years."