The owners of two upmarket Italian restaurants in Melbourne have been forced to reduce their opening hours as the hospitality industry grapples with a critical shortage of workers.
Sean Kierce and Ingrid Langtry, owners of Ladro in the inner-city suburbs of Fitzroy and Prahran, reopened to dine-in customers in October but quickly realised they didn’t have enough staff to operate seven days a week.
Speaking to SmartCompany, Kierce explains that it was difficult to retain staff once JobKeeper ended in March, with workers moving on to industries less affected by lockdowns.
“We opened seven days in the first week, but then realised that we weren’t going to get the staff we needed,” Kierce says.
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Across the two restaurants, Ladro has 10 vacancies for full-time and casual front-of-house and kitchen staff, with pizza chefs needed most.
Kierce says if he fills the 10 positions, the restaurants’ 19-strong team would be bolstered to 29, which is still down from the 45 staff he employed in 2019.
Until Kierce finds more staff, Ladro will only open for dinner service from Thursday to Monday and lunch service on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
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In October, the recruitment website SEEK recorded the highest number of job ads in a month in its 23-year history. Job ads increased by 10.2% month-on-month, ad volumes were 63.2% higher nationally than in the same month in 2020, and up 44% compared to 2019.
NSW had the highest increase in new job ads as restrictions continued to ease, at 20.3% month-on-month, while job ads in Victoria grew by 16.3%.
Despite job ads soaring, the number of applications per ad have declined nationally by 5.4% month-on-month.
Kierce says he hasn’t considered offering higher wages to attract more staff but has thought about offering current staff a $500 bonus, if they recruit a friend. It’s something Ladro has done in the past, which Kierce says “worked really well”.
“We used to do it years ago because we always found that good staff attract good staff,” he says.
While incentives like higher pay and bonuses might help businesses recruit some workers in the shorter term, the National Skills Commission has forecast the national hospitality industry will need to fill 140,000 new jobs over the next five years.
Ultimately, Kierce says what many restaurateurs are waiting for is the return of fully vaccinated temporary visa holders.
“The federal government needs to allow workers back into Australia, whether they’re students, holiday makers or backpackers, we just need to get them back in safely,” he says.