14 January 2022

Staff shortages hit coastal businesses hoping for a bumper summer

| Karyn Starmer
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Cocktail by a pool

Hospitality businesses have been working hard to cover staff shortages due to COVID-19 this summer. Photo: Corrigans Cove.

Have you noticed that service at your favourite bistro or bar is a little slower than usual, or a favourite is missing from the menu?

While the COVID-19 pandemic is wearing us all down, spare a thought for the entire hospitality industry, particularly on the NSW South Coast.

Hotels, clubs, restaurants and accommodation providers are struggling from the flow-on effects of a lack of staff largely driven by the pandemic, and its not just waitstaff that are hard to find.

Tomakin Sports & Social Club CEO Glen Wright says there are staff shortages across multiple job roles that are affecting the entire hospitality industry.

“It has been really hard,” he says.

“The past two summers were virtually wiped out due to bushfires and COVID-19. This year, the summer weather and the visitors have arrived, but our capacity is curtailed because of staff shortages.

READ ALSO Merimbula throws out the welcome mat for curious sea changers

“This is meant to be our peak trading time.”

The Tomakin Sports & Social Club would normally run four different food operations during summer, but at this stage they are only able to run two.

“We are short on staff across the board due to difficulty hiring staff, which is now reduced further due to staff having to isolate,” says Glen. “Chefs in particular have been very hard to find.”

The club has tried various ways of covering the shortfall, but as summer began to peak and the club got busier, wait times for orders grew longer. Glen says the club had to modify the menu to ensure service was up to their usual standard.

“The complaints then changed from having to wait, to not being able to order what they wanted,” he says.

 Tomakin Sports and Social Club

Staff shortages have reduced capacity in clubs, pubs and restaurants up and down the Australian east coast. Photo: Tomakin Sports & Social Club.

“We take great pride in our operations and we do not like to disappoint anyone. We have spent the past couple of years trying to find good quality staff. I know other clubs across the country have been experiencing similar problems.

“We have managed to get chefs here on visas and are looking to add more skilled staff this way. But with the housing shortage here on the coast, we have the added issue of finding somewhere for these people to live.”

Merimbula Chamber of Commerce president Nigel Ayling says cafes and restaurants have been working reduced hours or closing for a day or two at a time.

“I know of one cafe that is putting a daily post on social media saying if they are open and what they are offering, whether it is just for takeaway, or either a lunch or dinner service,” he says.

READ ALSO Sweet, briny South Coast oysters are a heavenly match for Canberra wines

“Staff shortages were an issue before this summer, and with people testing positive or having to isolate as close contacts, for some businesses this has meant they are down to running on the the smell of an oily rag.”

Nigel says accommodation providers have been affected, but as they have relatively lower staff ratios they have not been hit quite so hard.

“There have been cancellations due to people isolating, but there seems to be plenty of people wanting to travel so those bookings are being taken by people who thought they had missed out on a summer trip to the coast.

“That is some good news in what is a difficult time for businesses that were really hoping this summer would be a good one.

“It’s now been three years in a row.”

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