Australia’s hospitality industry, unlike any other, is experiencing a skills shortage. It’s harder than ever to find and recruit quality staff members that not only meet their job descriptions and fit in with the company’s culture, but also stick around for longer than just a few weeks or months.

Restaurant & Catering Australia’s CEO, John Hart, recently shed light on just how tough recruitment is in foodservice today. “The sector is currently experiencing a shortfall of 56,000 workers. Employment growth in the cafe, restaurant and take away food services sector will require an additional 43,700 jobs by November 2018. The rate of employment growth in this sector is expected to be higher than any other sector in the Australian economy, growing at around 8.5 percent,” he said.

“R&CA’s 2015 Benchmarking Survey found that 58.9 percent of businesses currently have vacancies with 24.6 percent indicating they were having extreme difficulty finding staff. Chefs, cooks and restaurant managers ranked as the most difficult vacancies to fill.”

But it’s not all bad news. There are measures that foodservice operators can take to safeguard their business from the skills shortage.

1.      Talk to a hospitality recruiter – The good thing about talking to industry-specific recruiters is that they know the intricacies of your sector and have an understanding of the skills and personality traits you expect from your staff members. They also often have an extensive list of active job-seekers, as well as those not currently on the look-out for a new employer, but who could be convinced if the right opportunity came along.

2.      Upskill and motivate existing staff members – One of the best ways to ensure you don’t have a staffing crisis is to ensure the valuable team members that you do have stick around. This means motivating them and incentivising them. Regularly check-in with each of your employees and ask how they’re feeling, what they’d like from you as an employer and where they see themselves in 12 months? Ken Burgin from Profitable Hospitality has some great tips here on how to create effective incentive schemes that will not only motivate your workers but will also make them more productive. 

3.      Consider overseas workers – The development of the Restaurant (Fine Dining) Industry Labour Agreement will help to address chronic labour shortages for some businesses in the industry. The Agreement has been negotiated with the federal government for the positions of cook and chef, and will also include trade waiters following the national endorsement of the occupation. Businesses will be required to meet a set of criteria in order to access skilled staff including having an la carte menu, having uniformed staff and a matre d’, and having achieved industry recognition through award programs. The agreement will also provide a concession on the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold of 10 percent, in-line with recommendations of the independent review of the 457 visa program.

“This moderate concession means it will be more feasible for operators to hire overseas workers, should they be able to demonstrate they have experienced prolonged vacancies in their businesses,” John Hart said when the agreement was first announced in July

Further to this, chefs were last year added to the Skilled Occupation List, meaning foreign workers in the industry can apply for a permanent visa without a sponsor.

There’s no point ignoring the skills shortage or hoping that the perfect candidate is going to walk through your restaurant’s doors tomorrow. You need to be proactive if you want to shelter your business from the perils of being under-resourced. If you’d like more information on the pointers listed above, contact the Frontline Hospitality team today.


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