Café and restaurant managers must remain on essential skills menu

Posted by HospoNews. Posted in Cafe, Featured, Restaurants

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Published on December 20, 2012 with No Comments

Despite the highest unemployment figure in more than a decade, the hospitality sector is facing a critical shortage of skilled managers, with many businesses struggling to find suitable candidates and positions remaining vacant for months. With the industry losing skilled workers to Australia and many others leaving the sector for good, the news that Immigration New Zealand is set to remove two key hospitality roles from its essential skills in demand list and prevent businesses from recruiting offshore, is about a palatable as day old paua fritter.

Removing Café and Restaurant Managers from Immigration New Zealand’s essential skills in demand list is a move that will hurt the hospitality sector and New Zealand argues Restaurant Association Chief Executive, Marisa Bidois.

Jodie Cameron, HR and Training manager for Barworks, a company with 19 venues in Auckland and Christchurch says that her company, despite investing in its own in-house training programme and promoting from within, still finds recruiting for café and restaurant manager roles extremely difficult.

Michael Turner, restaurateur from Christchurch, says that his city has lost a generation of hospitality workers.  Prior to the earthquake his business employed 32 staff. Within a fortnight of the February 2011 quake all but five left the city. None have returned. Eighteen months later, Café Valentino has reopened, but due to staff shortages, especially in duty management roles, he has been forced to reduce opening hours. Hardly conducive to encouraging Cantabrians back to the city as it begins to rebuild.

Turner says that it is impossible to find good key staff, or any staff with any experience at all. This, despite advertising extensively, and offering above average pay rates and conditions.

Marisa Bidois says that recruiting and retaining high calibre staff, able to work as café and restaurant managers has always been a challenge for the industry, where many of its workers consider a hospitality job as a short stop on the way to a long term job somewhere else, rather than the legitimate career that it is.
Evidence from the industry indicates there continues to be a severe shortage of skilled staff available to fill these management roles and this situation has worsened over the past two years.

2011 statistics showed there were more than 7,000 restaurants and cafés in New Zealand and just over 1,600 bars, pubs and taverns. On average each of these businesses requires at least one senior manager, even if there is an owner/operator actively working in the business.  Larger businesses, naturally, require two or more managers.

Despite the sluggish economic conditions, the hospitality sector is growing, with over 200 new hospitality businesses opening their doors.  This organic growth, together with people leaving the industry permanently – either due to migration to Australia where wages and tips are better, or moving to other jobs in New Zealand – has created a severe shortage of skilled staff.

While business owners are committed to developing, training and promoting from within as well as incentivising staff to stay by providing additional benefits, it has not been enough to stem the rising tide of shortages.

The Restaurant Association has also played a role; since 2006, it has run professional development programmes for the industry ranging from induction workshops for front-of-house staff through to emerging and first time manager workshops. It also works closely with the Service Professionals Association of New Zealand that represents front-of-house professionals and encourages them to view hospitality as a long term career choice.

Despite the efforts of business owners and the industry body, there is strong evidence of continuing difficulties in recruiting for these positions. An informal survey of Restaurant Association members conducted just last month found that 90% of respondents reported an unacceptable level of difficulty in recruiting for these positions.

Reports from restaurant owners across all regions in New Zealand indicate the shortfall in skilled staff is widespread.  Industry growth is a factor for Auckland and Canterbury businesses and some businesses due to their remote locations are also finding it difficult to attract staff.

This shortfall in suitable management staff is impacting the sector overall, but most importantly it is impacting business owners. Many report working significantly longer hours because they have been unable to recruit a manager.  This adds stress not only to the owner, but other workers too, and impacts the work environment. It also has the potential to impact customer service levels and therefore customers’ dining experiences and perceptions of the industry.

Tourism is a major export earner for New Zealand, and food and culture is a key part of a tourist’s experience of New Zealand.  We can be justifiably proud of our hospitality sector, but at the same time we should be doing all we can to make sure it is as strong and as vibrant as it can possibly be. Removing café and restaurant manager from the essential skills in demand list will do our industry and our country no favours.


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