“Releasing a pressure valve”: 85% of restaurant owners support a hospitality worker visa


The team at Gnocchi Gnocchi Brothers in Newport, Sydney. Source: supplied.

While the reopening of international borders to temporary visa holders has released “a pressure valve” for hospitality businesses, 85% would still back a specific visa to bring more overseas workers into the sector.

That’s according to data from Deliveroo’s HospoVitality Report, set to be released in full in January, which shows the talent shortage is still a significant — and costly — concern.

Of 200 restaurant owners surveyed, 85% support a specific visa for hospitality workers. That’s up from 72% in June.

While historically businesses based in the cities have supported such a move — being more reliant on migrant workers and backpackers — this result shows that as the talent shortage continues to bite, it is also hitting businesses outside of metropolitan areas.

More than half of the business owners surveyed (56%) said they plan to hire staff on temporary work visas or migrant visas within the next 12 months.

In New South Wales, that figure increases to 65%.

As we head towards the New Year, an increasingly competitive talent market means business owners are also expecting to spend more on staff salaries.

Some 62% of business owners surveyed said salary increases will be their most significant investment over the next six to 12 months.

Easing the pressure on hospitality

While the federal government is promising to create jobs and reduce unemployment, businesses owners in all manner of industries have been left asking exactly who is going to fill these new positions.

In hospitality, some businesses have not been able to take advantage of easing COVID-19 restrictions simply because of a lack of staff.

Gnocchi Gnocchi Brothers in Sydney has been restricted to trading five days per week, rather than its usual seven, co-founder and director Ben Cleary-Corradini says.

That has obviously had a negative impact on the business, he says, as overheads and costs remain the same. It’s also something businesses can ill-afford after a tough two years of on-again, off-again lockdowns.

The recent reopening of Australia’s borders to students and temporary visa holders “is like releasing a pressure valve for the small business sector”, Cleary-Corradini says.

“We need international labour for the hospitality industry to survive,” he adds.

“Our restaurant relies on the hard work, diversity and dedication of people that have moved to Australia.”

Hiring outside of the box

The talent drought has also led business owners to think outside of the box when it comes to hiring.

Sean Kierce, owner of Melbourne Italian restaurant Ladro, told SmartCompany back in October that he saw a 75% dip in the number of applications for vacant roles.

In particular, he struggled to find qualified kitchen staff, including pizza chefs, and was considering hiring from overseas, sponsoring workers and even covering their airfares and other costs.

Similarly, the Tasmanian Gourmet Food Company, which employs 80 staff across Australia, has “taken the existing employment model and turned it on its head”, owner Nick Copping says.

The business is offering a four-day working week, and changing its hours to offer more flexibility to staff, he explains.

“While these measures are working, the opening of Australia’s borders to international workers is a huge step forward for the hospitality industry, which has faced significant hardship over the past 18 months.”


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