Removing some hospitality industry jobs from New
Zealand's Essential Skills in Demand list has caused some
angst. Business editor Dene Mackenzie reports on some of the
Stuart St Brew Bar owner Richard Newcombe (foreground) with
his general manager Duncan Robertson. Photo by Linda
Restaurant Association of New Zealand chief executive office
Marisa Bidois is in no doubt that removing some managerial
categories from New Zealand's Essential Skills in Demand list
will provide unnecessary problems for her members.
Evidence she provided to a government hearing determining
whether or not the categories should be removed from the list
showed the hospitality industry continued to suffer severe
shortages in skilled staff available to fill those roles.
The situation had got worse in the past two years.
''While the business owners are committed to developing,
training and promoting from within their businesses and to
incentivising staff to stay by providing additional benefits,
they are still finding an insufficient number of candidates
available for these roles,'' she said.
There was also evidence a large number of key employees were
moving overseas or leaving the industry permanently.
As part of her submission, Ms Bidois had to provide proof
that full-time earnings in the occupation she sought to
retain exceeded $45,000 a year.
A 2012 survey of 582 businesses, covering 8265 workers,
indicated the following average salaries: bar manager,
$50,632; cafe manager, $47,762; restaurant manager, $48,273.
Statistics in 2011 indicated there were 7059 cafe and
restaurant businesses in New Zealand, and an additional 1639
bars, pubs and taverns, to give a total of 8698.
On average, each of those businesses required at least one
senior manager, even with the owner/operator working in the
business. Larger businesses would have two or more management
The association surveyed its members in October and 240
provided feedback on their efforts to recruit, train and
retain cafe, restaurant and bar managers. Two-thirds of the
respondents had recruited for a cafe, restaurant or bar
management role in the past year, Ms Bidois said.
Dunedin hospitality operator Richard Newcombe knows all about
the problems recruiting skilled staff for top positions and
is also worried about the removal of any skills from the
skills in demand list.
In the past two weeks, he has advertised for a head chef at
his Stuart St Brew Bar, with limited success.
Of the 12 applicants, only four or five were being considered
for an interview. Mr Newcombe was surprised by the lack of
interest, given media reports of continuing high
unemployment. While he was probably not prepared to fly in
someone from overseas for an interview, he would consider
flying someone to Dunedin from elsewhere in New Zealand to
interview for a head chef's role.
Bar owners like himself were all competing for staff within a
limited pool of talent. And while no-one in Dunedin
deliberately set out to poach staff from other operators,
there was a feeling a skill shortage in key hospitality roles
was building, he said.
For Mr Newcombe, finding chefs was always problematical.
''I am not a chef, so I depend on having good people in that
area. In a push, I can run the front of house and pour a beer
but in the kitchen, it is essential you have good people
Chefs were often expected to manage both staff, menus and
budgets, he said. Getting level-four cooking at a polytechnic
did not mean someone could run a restaurant kitchen, he said.
Some owners had an ace up their sleeves by being qualified as
a chef. But they were few and far between, Mr Newcombe said.
Mr Newcombe's general manager is Duncan Robertson, who would
be difficult to replace, he said.
''There is no-one around here like him. It is very rare to
have the level of skills and experience Duncan provides. When
I employed Duncan, it was good timing and I can't think of
anyone in town with his level of skills,'' Mr Newcombe said.
Wellington restaurateur Conrad Banks, of Dockside, said in a
letter of support for Ms Bidois that the removal of
''restaurant manager'' from the essential skills list was
''I have three managers that have been running the restaurant
and bar for three years. We need four. I have been looking
for people who can run the restaurant effectively, constantly
for over two years as our establishment is very
Mr Banks used the skills system to allow a Canadian manager
to keep working for Dockside. When the manager moved back to
Canada, the hunt started again, he said.
Michael Turner, the Canterbury branch president of the
Restaurant Association and the manager-director of Cafe
Valentino, said the restaurant was one of Christchurch's
busiest until the February 2011 earthquake, at which time the
restaurant was destroyed.
Before the earthquake, he had 32 staff. Within two weeks of
the quake all but five had left the city. None had returned.
By October, he had been advertising for staff for six weeks.
''To put it mildly, it is almost impossible to find good key
staff; in fact, almost any staff with any experience at
Before the earthquake, a staff member with less experience
could be taken on and ''nursed'' by surrounding them with
experienced staff, Mr Turner said.
''That can no longer happen, as there are no experienced
Christchurch had lost a generation of hospitality workers and
they were not going to be easy to replace. The effects of
that would be wide-ranging, he said.