Some restaurants across Australia have resorted in poaching workers from rival hospitality venues by offering them a higher pay rise to keep their business operating. Furthermore, a number of hospitality establishments across Australia have been forced to close temporarily for the first time since the beginning of the covid-19 pandemic.
The fast-spreading Omicron variant has left many industries, especially the hospitality industry in economic disarray as thousands of workers have either tested positive to covid-19 or been required to isolate as a result of being a close contact of a positive case.
A trickle of international students and temporary workers back into the country after border closures has also exacerbated staff shortages for a number of businesses, while others that manage to stay open are operating on a knife edge.
For a number of venues who have been had a large percentage of their employees being unavailable to work due to covid-19 isolation requirements, the trading hours of many hospitality venues is dependent on how many people are available to work at that given time of day or night.
Furthermore, many hospitality venues are noticing an increase in rude customers who are complaining about the wait times for them to receive their meals as there are less employees available to work in the kitchen. As a result of this meals are taking longer than usual to be made for customers.
"That's why I always ask the customers before they order food if they don't mind waiting as we catch up with orders due to staff shortages. Please be kind with the hospitality industry right now. We are trying our best to serve you,” says Hana Tania, owner of Indonesian restaurant Ayam Ria Penyet.
Hana Tania reveals that some restaurants had also resorted to poaching staff with offers of better pay.
"Let's say we were already offering a rate based on the standard award, but a fine-dining restaurant could offer them $35 an hour to wash dishes. Many restaurant owners that I know told me that they can't compete with them. A couple of restaurant owners have even offered to give their staff a few hundred bucks extra if they can refer and bring their friends to work,” says Hana Tania.
One of those to benefit from the staff shortage has been hospitality worker Agustina Mentari, who was finally able to get back to Melbourne before Christmas after being "stranded" in Indonesia for almost two years.
Ms Mentari said she was already getting job offers while she was in Indonesia, and sometimes the offer was made when the owner hadn't even read her resume.
This week she is working as an all-rounder for $30 per hour, $10 more than two years ago, she said.
"Restaurants are fighting over us. Many of my friends, of course, would take the higher-paid jobs. Even in one case, when they wanted to quit the job to work in another business with a higher wage, the owners raised the pay to keep them,” says hospitality worker Agustina Mentari.
However, having caught covid-19 in Indonesia and not wanting to repeat the experience, Ms Mentari has decided to take fewer hours to limit her exposure.
Tai Chin Hua the owner of Vegi and Coffee Lover in Caulfield in Melbourne's south-east, has decided that his business will only serve takeaway food only due to a lack of workers.
The cafe opened right before the second lockdown and is currently still struggling to find new staff.
"I don't know why, but we are now getting less customers compared to during the lockdowns. One of my staff is a close contact and couldn't work, and another staff member is so fearful of the current spread of covid-19 that they decided to stop working. We only have about three or four staff, in total, so losing one or two people has a huge impact,” says Tai Chin Hua.
Mr Hua said he was working more than 10 hours every day, and yet he was earning less money.
"Myself and the existing staff need to do more hours and more tasks. For example, service staff also need to help out in the kitchen,” says Mr. Hua.
Mr Hua said he had been advertising for new staff but unfortunately no has been applying for the vacant positions.
He said this may be a result of a lack of international workers coming into Australia.
"It's really difficult to hire now, because we sell Asian-style food and, thus, need bilingual staff who can speak Mandarin/Cantonese and English. The future is uncertain and I don't know what's waiting ahead tomorrow … but I have no choice but to endure and continue. The government allowances during the lockdown helped greatly, but we don't have that anymore now. We need it more now than before,” says Tai Chin Hua the owner of Vegi and Coffee Lover in Caulfield.