The owner of Napier restaurant Bistronomy says industry moves to pay staff a living wage are a step in the right direction.

James Beck recently began paying all of his staff the living wage of $20.55 an hour minimum, and is encouraging others in the industry to do the same.

"We know not everyone can do this but we're really looking to encourage the bigger players and industry members, not just in hospo but in other major industries, to pay a living wage," Beck said.

As of this month the minimum wage increased by 75c to $16.50 an hour. The Government has committed to lifting it to $20 an hour by 2021 as part of Labour's coalition agreement with NZ First.


Beck said the decision was based on finding and retaining good staff, but it also "just felt like the right thing to do".

"The hospo industry is bloody hard work and myself and my partner as owners work bloody hard, but our staff work almost as hard as we do, so it felt fair to try and pay them something that would give them a comfortable standard of living as well," he said.

"As an industry we're struggling at the moment to find good staff and a lot of that is because I don't think it's seen as a long-term career, so part of changing that is by offering a decent wage for people when they start off."

The living wage is calculated every year by researchers, and is voluntary for businesses to take on board.

Although most of Bistronomy's senior staff were already on more than $20.50 an hour, Beck said it was an increase for the dishwashers, cleaners and junior staff that would typically start on a lower wage.

He said part of the issue with finding staff was the image of hospitality in New Zealand as an in between or low-paid job as opposed to a career.

Offering decent pay was a good start, said Beck.

Restaurant Association chief executive Marisa Bidois said the industry as a whole was looking at ways to attract more people to the industry.


"Most hospitality businesses run on tight margins and wage bills are their single biggest costs," Bidois said.

"Despite this, many are now understanding that paying slightly higher wages will not only have a significant impact on the wellbeing of staff but also on attracting and retaining good people."

Bidois said working with the Government on initiatives to encourage young New Zealanders to consider hospitality as career would be a focus for the organisation this year.