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Byron Shire
December 5, 2021

Lockdowns impact restaurants/staff

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Reality shows would have us believe that there are cooks of all descriptions and experience, waiting to work in the fine dining industry, but it would appear they only gather in big cities and television studios.

Two local restaurateurs have stellar menus, but not enough staff to prepare and serve the food.

Steve Snow from the multi-award winning Fins has been running kitchens on the far north coast for thirty years.

Snow says he has a great team at Fins – just not enough of them. ‘We need more people in most roles at Fins. To compensate, we only open four days and nights a week with lunch on Friday and Saturday.’

Snow says the staff situation has never been quite so dire. ‘Pre lockdown, we had a great team at Fins. Repeated lockdowns and hours wasted queuing at the NSW/QLD border, made staff look elsewhere. 

‘Then Queensland was open for trade, and we weren’t. With Fins on your resume, you look very attractive to Gold Coast operators. To be able to work elsewhere while Fins was in forced lockdown was another reason to switch jobs. Many were reluctant but had to live. I understand their predicament.’

Mindy Woods, from Karkalla in Byron Bay, is also having staffing troubles.

Woods says that currently she only opens for restricted trading hours because of the staffing ‘crisis’.

‘We would typically open five to six days – breakfast, lunch and dinner during this peak period – but we can only open four part-days owing to lack of staff.’

Mindy says she lost two key staff as a consequence of the double vax requirements.

Financial blow

‘The push back of the “freedoms” date will likely mean we will be unable to operate at full capacity throughout summer. This is another significant financial blow to our decimated community, industry and businesses.

‘We are emerging from the pandemic staffless. It’s potentially the worst workforce crises ever experienced Australia wide.’

Steve Snow says pay rates have risen considerably in hospitality – coupled with really generous tippers at Fins, money isn’t the problem.

‘We have spared no expense with amazing produce at Fins, and we have happy customers’.

‘Everyone is respected so that’s another tick.

‘The only thing I can think of is to allow more overseas workers into Australia and actively provide inducements so that people want a career in hospitality.

‘There are nowhere near enough people trained for hospitality. I love the fact that Fins is a melting pot of staff. It adds flavour and colour to our restaurant. To effectively prohibit skilled hospitality staff from overseas working at Fins has made it hard.

‘For some workers in our region, it’s sometimes a trade-off between the amount of money the government pays you, how good the surf is and how many hours you need to work on top of that to survive. Others want a full-time job, some are precluded from working owing to the government vaccine mandates and others are in between all of that.

‘We just need more staff – from near or far, we need more staff.’

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