Hospitality industry needs 30,000 more staff to cope with summer demand, shortages could affect Kiwis' Christmas plans

Startling new figures have revealed New Zealand's hospitality industry needs another 30,000 workers to cope with demand leading into the busiest time of the year. 

Barcats, a digital job-seeker agency, is warning New Zealand needs an "army" of staff to join the workforce if we want to ensure the summer season goes off without a hitch. 

New figures released by Barcats show the industry is facing a national worker shortage which may result in a 25 percent increase in wait times, reservation unavailability, increased costs, limited menus and opening hours and a decline in service quality. 

The figures show over 800 waitstaff and bartenders, 1500 baristas and 1000 housekeeping workers are needed in Auckland, while thousands of staff in all areas are needed around the country.   

New Zealand's summer calendar is stacked with high-profile and highly anticipated events such as the Wanaka Beer Festival, the Wine & Food Festival in Christchurch, Rhythm & Alps Festival in the South Island, concerts around the country like Snoop Dog, George Ezra, Guns n Roses and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. 

Chief executive and founder of Barcats Jeff Williams told Newshub the staff shortages will affect everyone from big events to your everyday coffee shop. 

"It's everything from Eden Park down to your local coffee at the local barista, it really is impacting even things like housekeeping and hotels. We're really seeing the impact across the whole industry," Williams said. 

Chief executive and founder of Barcats Jeff Williams said staff shortages will affect everyone from big events to your everyday coffee shop.
Chief executive and founder of Barcats Jeff Williams said staff shortages will affect everyone from big events to your everyday coffee shop.

With the highly anticipated summer schedule, Williams said the staff shortage could leave Kiwis feeling let down. 

"This is going to be one of the biggest festival [seasons] we've ever had in New Zealand, literally since the millennium," he told Newshub.

"Everyone's got so much pent-up frustration. We're catching up on weddings, formals and valedictorians. We're catching up with our friends and family, and we want to have the biggest Christmas in years, but this is going to have a real impact on that ability to be able to go and do exactly that."

Williams said without an "army" of much-needed chefs, bartenders and waiters, the outlook for the hospitality industry is grim. 

"We saw it coming, so it's really unfortunate we just haven't incentivised and what the Government is sort of doing nice easy press-grabs of 'We're going to open things up' but actually the people doing the processing are miles behind," he told Newshub. 

"All the big acts are coming because they want to travel and be there but it has a real impact. If I can't get a meal beforehand or I can't do something afterwards, it sucks a bit of life out of the party if it's only just the two hours and I spent 40 minutes queuing up for my pie and chips."

The Government is trying to get ahead of problem, announcing on Sunday they're scrapping the rule that stopped unqualified international chefs from getting work visas. 

Immigration advisor Katy Armstrong told AM on Monday she was "delighted" by the Government's decision.

"Obviously we are delighted. It's very satisfying to get [the] policy to where it should be."

Hospitality New Zealand has been campaigning to get the strict rules removed from our immigration settings, and CEO Julie White is glad the Government finally listened.

"They actually heard us and even in the media release, they said they agree with us," White told AM on Monday alongside Armstrong. 

"My only regret is that it's taken this long to get here. The fact there was a delay, it actually has caused some issues for some of the businesses."

Williams said the hospitality industry needs a workforce roughly twice the size of our Defence Force to cope with the summer demand.

"Unfortunately, just as quickly as we're seeing people come into the country, we're also losing Kiwis out to Europe because they also have waited two years to go and explore overseas, so we're seeing the sort of yin and yang thing," Williams said. 

"The real answer is we also need to encourage New Zealanders to take up the challenge and actually join the hospitality industry as their first job. It's the best opportunity to sort of build some life skills and have some fun and hospitality."