New Zealand hospitality businesses warn of huge wait times if staffing shortages continue

  • 11/10/2022

Hospitality businesses are warning there could be huge wait times for meals if the industry's staffing shortages continue into summer.

As Kiwis emerge from COVID-19 hibernation, jobs platform Barcats said Aotearoa needs 30,000 extra hospitality workers to cater to heightened demand this coming festive season.

"You turn up to a venue - venues will be shut on a Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday when you're expecting to be able to go and celebrate. When you get there, the menu might only have four or five items," said Jeff Williams, Barcats CEO.

Bars, hotels, and restaurants across the motu are facing crippling staff shortages despite international borders having been open since August 1.

They're warning there will be reduced capacity, increased costs, and fewer operating hours, and bookings will need to be made weeks in advance if staff can't be found in time.

Staff are working more hours and extra shifts to try to meet the demand.

Hamish Klein of Good Group Hospitality told Newshub staff burnout is a "major concern".

"[This] is why we've only got five days of trading in our restaurants in Queenstown at the moment."

Klein said recruiting new staff through websites like Seek isn't working and he has had to get creative.

Nationwide, the top five most in-demand roles include bar and wait staff, kitchen staff, managers, baristas, and hotel staff.

"We've got staff referrals and cash bonuses for anyone who brings somebody [else] on. I think that's pretty common in the industry as well. We're trying everything," Klein said.

To open seven days a week, Klein needs 40 more staff in Queenstown alone.

It's been made tougher by the fact that unemployment sits at 3.3 percent.

As a result, fewer Kiwis are available and looking for work, meaning the need to rely on foreign workers to fill gaps in the labour force is higher than ever.

Williams wants university students, retirees, and high-school leavers to "sign up and be part of this hospitality army".

The industry is worth $10.7 billion, according to Williams.

Barcats estimates that Tāmaki Makaurau needs an additional 1500 baristas and 1000 hotel staff to meet the anticipated summer demand.

"If the Government was to just process the 30,000 [working visa] applications that are sitting, waiting for processing, that would be a huge, huge help," Klein said.

Williams said wait times for meals could go up by 25 percent.

"Waiting for your steak and chips might take you an hour before you're actually served."

With the Women's Rugby World Cup, the Wānaka Beer Festival, Snoop Dogg's concert, and Rhythm & Alps among a plethora of other events in the coming weeks, Klein's worried he won't be able to fill the vacancies in time.

"Our group alone, across 13 venues, has got over 100 vacancies available right now. The festive season is rolling up really quickly."

Time's running out to fill the roles before the party starts.

New Zealand hospitality businesses warn of huge wait times if staffing shortages continue