Nelson has hit the busy summer period earlier than expected, with local restaurant owners saying they are “screaming out for staff” to keep up with the demand.
Vic Brew Bar and Burger Culture general manager Phil Williams, says between the two Trafalgar St restaurants, he is needing four chefs and 12 bar and wait staff.
“I’ve had the Vic for eight years and each year becomes progressively harder to find staff,” he says.
“We’ve advertised locally for a baker for over a month and not had anyone with the required skills apply, so we’re now looking overseas.”
Phil says his preference is to hire locals but this year he has noticed fewer Kiwis coming back for work.
He says there is also a public perception that if they paid people better then there wouldn’t be any issues.
“But it’s not as easy as that – costs are already very high.”
He also says there is a lot of competition between operators for staff in Nelson.
“It never used to be like that.”
Phil says it’s only going to get busier, with Nelson City Council’s trial closure of the top of Trafalgar St to cars kicking in this Friday.
“We’ll have around an extra 40 seats outside at the Vic, so we’ll have to increase our staffing levels.”
Kimberly Widley, owner of Cod and Lobster Brasserie, also on Trafalgar St, says their summer season has started earlier than expected.
“Absolutely, everyone is screaming out for staff,” she says.
“It’s busy already – we’ve advertised for staff and we’re still looking. Trying to find trained and experience staff with the appropriate skills and qualifications is tough, especially this close to Christmas.”
She says they get quite a few transient staff coming in, but they have to turn many away because of language barriers.
The Nelson Tasman region has the lowest unemployment rate nationwide which means businesses are finding it increasingly difficult to hire the right staff.
Recent data from the Household Labour Force Survey showed the region has the lowest unemployment in the country with only 2.2 per cent compared to 4.6 per cent nationwide.
Tony Crosbie, Nelson Branch President of Hospitality New Zealand says it is “definitely” an issue for hospitality operators in Nelson.
“In general, there is a massive struggle to find workers that are suitable and a lot of operators have expressed that it’s hard,” he says.
Owner of Ford’s Restaurant and Bar, Kerry Ford, also says that it has been slower than usual finding staff.
“We do have quite a few students who have come back to work for us, but we would have expected more backpackers through by now.”