Restaurants face closing due to lack of staff

Chef Mauro Callegari at the Independent in Gembrook. Picture: ON FILE.

By Parker McKenzie

Restaurant and cafes are facing an uncertain future as severe staff shortages could potentially lead to venues closing their doors.

Oakridge Winery manager Simone Berner has also been unable to recruit new staff like many other Yarra Valley hospitality businesses.

“It’s extremely bad. There are no people around,” she said.

“I think Covid was the big issue. A lot of people either changed careers, had babies or don’t want to come back to hospitality because it’s been so uncertain with lockdowns.”

The inability to find new staff could mean closing the restaurant to patrons a tough blow after months of closures.

“I’ve just had three people quit at Oakridge,” Ms Berner said.

“So right now, we are uncertain whether the restaurant is going to be able to continue unless we find more stuff quickly.”

It’s not just happening in the Yarra Valley, owner of The Independent in Gembrook Mauro Callegari said the ability to recruit staff at the moment is “terrible.”

“It’s worse than ever,” he said.

“We pay well, they get good tips and we are open four nights a week.”

Some 33 people were employed at the Argentinian restaurant before the Covid-19 pandemic, that’s now down to 13 staff.

Some of his former employees returned to their homes overseas, others took jobs with supermarkets for more regular work throughout lockdowns and several didn’t return because they disagreed with vaccinations.

Mr Callegari said most of his staff travel from outside Gembrook to work in the restaurant and competing with other venues looking for staff has made recruiting waitstaff difficult.

“The demographic makes it difficult, it’s where we are based,” Mr Callegari said.

“One thing we are waiting for is international workers to return.”

Mr Callegari said the Independent had sponsored a foreign chef a year and half ago to work in the restaurant but he hasn’t been able to enter the country.

“We are restricted and limited in the way the business operates at the moment,” he said.

“We can’t do this forever.”