Footy fans queue “for miles” at the MCG, as hospitality staff shortages bite

MCG hospitality

Source: Unsplash/Rodger Wang.

The AFL men’s league is back at the MCG, but some 72,000 fans attending the Richmond-Carlton showdown last night faced “queues for miles” for bars and food outlets, highlighting a broader staffing crisis in the hospitality sector.

One Twitter user posted an image of long lines for food and drink, questioning: “Did the memo not get out that were [sic] all excited that footy is back!”

Another said they had “lost half a quarter in line”, and one commenter asked if the MCG would refund 25% of fans’ ticket prices “cos they’ve spent that time queuing”.

The MCG responded diligently to each complaint with a stock response: “Unfortunately, like the rest of the hospitality industry nationally, the MCG is experiencing some staffing shortages tonight which has meant the closure of some bar and food outlets throughout the venue.

“We sincerely apologise for the inconvenience caused.”

Melbourne Cricket Club has also apologised to members for its “difficult decision” to close bars in the Reserve members’ area, and the frustration this caused among members.

The club is “actively recruiting to bolster staffing levels back to where they pre pre-pandemic”, the statement said.

“From flying in chefs from interstate and overseas, to putting a call out for casual staff through mainstream media, we are leaving no stone unturned in the quest to fill these front and back of house roles.”

An ongoing crisis for SMEs

The scenes at the MCG have shone a very public light on the staff shortages facing hospitality businesses — something SMEs have been grappling with for some time.

According to data from Seek, the number of vacancies advertised for hospitality and tourism roles was up 20% in February 2022, compared to January.

That number has also increased 56% compared to February 2021, and a massive 121% compared to pre-pandemic levels in February 2019.

Speaking to SmartCompany, Wes Lambert, chief executive of Restaurant and Catering Australia, says in Victoria alone there are some 28,000 open vacancies in hospitality.

“It remains the number one industry for workforce shortage,” he says.

“And it is not improving.”

Historically, the industry has relied on international students and working holiday makers to fill those roles, Lambert explains. Even with borders reopening, those workers haven’t returned in the numbers seen pre-pandemic.

At the same time, many workers left hospitality during the crisis, finding alternative work in industries less affected by lockdowns.

With events returning, borders reopening to tourists and more people travelling domestically, this pressure is not likely to ease any time soon.

According to Lambert, it will likely remain for the rest of 2022.

How to bridge the hospitality staffing gap?

Unfortunately for footy fans, Lambert says there is no quick fix here.

The staff shortfall is no longer necessarily an issue of pay. In fact he says hospitality wages have significantly increased in the 2021-22 financial year.

This and other increasing overheads mean prices are likely to rise, too.

A cafe in Broome hit the headlines this week after offering a salary package of $92,000 for baristas. It is also offering up to $112,500 per year for kitchen staff — although the hefty pay packet comes with a 55-hour week, including weekend work.

Also this week was the suggestion that coffee prices are set to rise, as cafes struggle to absorb rising overheads. Coffee drinkers could reportedly find themselves shelling out as much as $7 for a latte or long black.

The key is to “change the culture of hospitality”, Lambert says, offering long-term training and education solutions to encourage young workers into the hospitality trade.

“The expectation of consumers is very high,” he says.

“But ultimately, while there remains a severe workforce shortage and the price of raw materials continues to skyrocket, we ask that consumers are understanding,” he adds.

“It’s not the businesses’ fault.”


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2 months ago

It’s clear the hospo industry is cooked when junior staff are paid more than nurses & teachers.

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