• Wed. Oct 5th, 2022

Why Sydney’s hospitality industry is still struggling to recruit staff

ByStephanie M. Akbar

Aug 28, 2022

To circumvent the problem of trying to staff a new restaurant just weeks after opening, Jenkins said Applejack began its hiring process three months before RAFI opened in September.

“It will be 290 seats, so a big venue,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins said Applejack made a conscious decision to create a vibrant work culture and encourage people to join the industry.Credit:Louise Kennerley

“We are about to put the team in place, but we started recruiting three months ago, and we have retained them [the staff] in other places. Yes, it would cost a bit more in labor, but we saw the value would be there once we opened the restaurant.

Hospitality is often a tough industry with common business failures. Data from the Bureau of Statistics shows that the pre-tax profit margin in the industry was around 6.5% before the pandemic, with salaries and wages representing a major cost accounting for around a quarter of turnover. Margins in the sector are relatively low, at about half of those in the entire private sector economy.

However, the hotel industry, which employs around 900,000 people, is diversified. These range from cafes and small restaurants that often struggle, to giant hotel and pub empires that can make big profits.


A worker at one of Sydney’s giant clubs, Dave, who preferred not to name his current employer to protect himself from repercussions, said the pandemic was opening up options for hospitality workers.

“A lot of people during the pandemic have realized there’s a lot of opportunity out there, and you don’t have to deal with the stress of customer relationships or customer abuse,” says- he.

“In warehousing, in pick and pack, you can make up to $35 an hour – that’s for a day shift. Why would you work for $22 an hour on a day shift in an environment where you could be abused and deal with drunks? »

United Workers Union National Secretary Tim Kennedy said labor shortages are a product of the pandemic and the industry’s heavy reliance on temporary migrant workers. “They were victims of wage theft and exploitation, and we told them to go home,” he said, “They didn’t come back.”


Kennedy said bringing these workers back involves giving them more rights and a better path to permanent residency.

For Applejack, providing permanent work options to casual staff and showing employees that there are career options in hospitality has been a key goal post-lockdowns.

“We are much more focused on asking reception staff if they would like to pursue a career in hospitality and putting in place succession plans for our employees.”

“There has been a lot more emphasis on retaining staff and promoting our workplaces as a social environment.”

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