An exclusive restaurant is paying their dishwashing staff as much as $90 an hour as Australia’s hospitality industry is hit by chronic staff shortages post-lockdown.
Sydney’s Rockpool Bar & Grill executive chef Corey Costelloe said job advertisements in the sector rose by 45 per cent in October as restaurants battle to meet pent-up demand after months of lockdown.
Mr Costelloe said the bar – owned by celebrity chef Neil Perry – is offering dishwashers $90 for an hour’s work on Friday and Saturday nights but ‘still can’t get them’ to take the job.
Pictured: A staff member at celebrity chef Neil Perry’s Margaret eatery in Double Bay. Sydney’s Rockpool Bar & Grill is paying their dishwashers as much as $90 an hour as Australia’s hospitality industry is hit by chronic staff shortage
He added some of the venue’s workers were being offered six-figure salaries even if they had comparatively little experience, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.
His admission to industry leaders comes as Australian venues offer chefs, waiters and bar staff one-off cash sign-on bonuses in a desperate bid to find willing staff.
The owner of Bondi’s Pompei pizza restaurant George Pompei said last month his $2,000 signing bonus was being turned down by applicants preferring to stay on JobSeeker.
‘Out of three applicants who we actually spoke to over the phone, nobody has turned up for an interview,’ he told The Daily Telegraph.
He is not alone – with other Sydney venues offering similar incentives.
The Apollo in Potts Point is seeking a floor manager and offering a cash bonus to the successful applicant.
While hospitality companies The Dog’s Group and Australian Venue Co. are offering up to $3,500 as sign-on bonuses.
A diner at Rockpool Bar & Grill. Executive chef Corey Costelloe said job advertisements in the sector rose by 45 per cent in October, but demand for positions is lacking
A Menulog survey found 68 per cent of the hospitality venues have lost international chefs due to Covid.
The workforce shortage was similiar during the 2020 Christmas period, when The Australian Venue Co. offered job seekers a $1,000 sign-on bonus and an extra $2,000 if they’re still employed after three months.
The result of the new labour supply issues is that restaurants are struggling to meet the spike in demand for bookings over the Christmas period.
Celebrity chef Neil Perry last week told Daily Mail Australia his lavish new eatery Margaret in Double Bay is booked out until February 2022 and he does not have enough staff to expand the limited sittings.
Celebrity chef Neil Perry told Daily Mail Australia his lavish new eatery Margaret in Double Bay is booked out until February 2022 and he does not have enough staff to expand how many tables he can offer
Christmas party bookings have also reached capacity in many of the nation’s top restaurants which are no longer accepting large groups over the festive period.
‘We would normally be accepting ‘book-outs’ (booking out the entire restaurant) for Christmas parties at this time of the year but I just don’t have the staff to accommodate them,’ says Perry, whose is no longer taking Friday night or weekend bookings until February next year.
‘Everyone is killing themselves to make it work as it is.
‘I’m currently paying staff $30,000 a week in overtime and I’m at the point that I just cannot whip them any harder.’
After months of lockdown, there is massive pent up demand for fine dining
The problem is so bad that many venues are being forced to knock back Christmas bookings
International Covid border restrictions has seen Australia’s steady stream of working holiday visa holders – which account for about 300,000 workers in Sydney and Melbourne annually – abruptly cut off.
Those visa holders, along with overseas students and backpackers, are the ‘nuts and bolts’ of the hospitality industry, says Perry, who is urging the government to begin allowing people back into Australia ‘immediately’.
‘You’ve got kids sitting overseas who broke their visas… we need them back on a plane and without the the reams of paperwork,’ he said.
Executive chef Jacqui Challinor this week opened the doors of high-end Flinders Lane newcomer Nomad in Melbourne – a sister to a venue in Sydney’s Surry Hills – and says Friday and weekend bookings are already ‘out of the question’.
New eatery has opened in Flinders Lane Melbourne but already Christmas bookings are full
LOOKING TO BOOK A FANCY DINNER?
Margaret’s, Double Bay: Booked until February, with a small number of tables left free for walk-ins each night
Cafe Sydney, CBD – Fully booked until December, no Friday or Saturday nights until February. Wait list scrapped with over 100 every night.
Totti’s, Bondi: Fully-booked until the end of January.
Firedoor, Surry Hills: Fully-booked until March.
China Doll, Woolloomooloo: Limited mid-week availability but no weekend slots until January.
Saint Peter, Paddington: Mostly booked out until February.
Nomad, Melbourne: Bookings over the festive season are ‘out of the question’
‘I have people texting me for tables over the festive period and I’m saying; ‘I’m sorry but it just can’t be done’,’ says Challinor, who has been forced to slash back services to just five dinners and three lunch services per week.
‘We have worked so hard to get here and now we’re having to cancel reservations because we can’t staff the shifts. It’s bloody heartbreaking.’
Challinor believes the recovery of the hospitality industry will ‘a very long process’.
‘It’s great that things are opening back up and there is huge demand.
‘But the reality is we are just not in a position to reap any rewards just yet because we’re not able to accommodate the numbers that we want.’
The staff shortage is so bad, according to Aria and Chiswick owner Matt Moran, that he has been forced to cut his numbers for dinner and lunch by more than half.
‘So now instead of 14 services a week at Aria, we are doing five: four dinners and Friday lunch,’ Moran told Daily Mail Australia.
‘And it’s not just a matter of finding staff…it’s just that there aren’t any people to find.
‘We are at the point now where we are offering incentives to existing staff members who bring in other people willing to work.
‘But it’s so bad. It is the worst conditions I have ever seen in my whole career. And until we get the visa holders back in the country it won’t improve.’