The Merivale, Laundy and Endeavour hospitality groups are battling to keep venues fully operational due to the biggest staff shortages the industry has ever seen.
Merivale is short 1000 staff, while hotels in the Laundy group while another billionaire publican, Arthur Laundy, who has operated in the industry for more than 60 years, says staff shortages have never been this bad.
Merivale Group has 140 pubs, restaurants and hotels, while the Laundy Hotel Group owns 80 hotels, pubs and restaurants.
Some Merivale venues are only opening five days a week instead of seven due to the crisis.
“We are completely undercooked across the entire industry,” Frank Robert’s, Merivale’s group operations manager, told News Corp,
He estimated staff levels were down at least 25%, with trading off 20% as a result.
“It’s affecting us enormously in catering for the Sydney Cricket Ground for instance,” he said. “We have a chronic shortage of chefs, line level cooks, chef de parties, and a severe lack of hospitality staff, as well as sommeliers and professional waiters. We also have a lack of bartenders and a shortage of people entering the industry. We are stretched everywhere. As a consequence our trading is 20 per cent off … and at such a fantastic time. We have never had such a fantastic time of people wanting to come to our venues.”
Publican Arthur Laundy said the lack of hospitality staff was the worst he had seen in more than 60 years.
“Recruiting agencies are ringing hotels offering staff 10% pay increases, they are poaching staff, it’s a fiasco, I have never seen anything like this,” he said.
At his new The Log Cabin Hotel (pictured main) in Penrith in Sydney’s outer west, Laundy needs another 100 staff and could only recently that he was able to open the hotel’s fine dining second floor restaurant due to staff shortages.
Laundy is struggling to find managers for at least five of his prime Sydney city hotels, including the Woolwich Pier Hotel, the Oxford Hotel, the Crossways Hotel and the Marsden Brewhouse.
Endeavour Group CEO Steve Donohue told Fairfax that teams at the business’ 300-plus hotels were “working a bit harder than we’d like” due to a shortage of international workers who would usually fill gaps in the roster.
“As international travel opens up and people can come and work in Australia, we’ll probably start to fill some of those gaps around in our kitchens. We’re starting to see that come back, but there’s quite a ways to go,” he said.
“People are really coming back to pubs, and it’s been a bit harder to serve their needs.”
The Australian Hotels Association’s Stephen Ferguson said the decision to exclude foreign nationals from the jobkeeper scheme in 2020 was partly to blame for the current staff shortages.
“They all had to go home and now we’re in a global race with a whole heap of other countries trying to get these skills back as everyone opens up,” Ferguson told the Guardian.
“Someone sitting in the Philippines or Mexico might go to Canada, the UK or New Zealand or wherever else instead of Australia.”
Ferguson said some AHA members have complained that skilled visas were taking five months to approve and there are not enough trained Australians to fill the positions.