Finding skilled employees is a struggle for many sectors in the Bay of Plenty - and the hospitality industry is no exception. Experts say some Kiwis view these jobs as a stop-gap rather than a viable career option. Carmen Hall talks to those involved and takes a look at the number of jobs coming on stream in the future.
The Bay of Plenty hospitality industry is booming as sales revenues jump $38 million in one year - but this growth is coming at a cost as local businesses struggle to find skilled staff.
It is a problem that is likely to grow worse. A new report estimates another 2800 hospitality employees will be needed in the Bay of Plenty in the next four years.
In the report from the Restaurant Association, data showed that across the Bay, sales increased from $599m to $637.7m in the year ended March 2019.
Employee numbers had also lifted, rising from 7200 to 7500 in the same period.
But more workers are needed, and soon. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment estimates that by 2023, the Bay of Plenty will need 2800 more hospitality staff.
The industry's growth is being driven by rising numbers of international visitors and more residents choosing to eat out, Restaurant Association chief executive Marisa Bidois said.
The shortages had a big effect on businesses, she said, and put pressure on both the owners and staff.
''At the most extreme end it means a business needs to reduce their trading hours, and we've had some members say if the skill shortages get worse they may need to close.''
Why some women struggle to find jobs despite their qualifications
'Unlike anything else': $80m hotel planned for Rotorua's CBD
Rotorua Business Award winners 'stoked' and 'over the moon'
Hospitality New Zealand Bay of Plenty regional manager Alan Sciascia said finding suitable staff has been increasingly difficult and the situation was not improving.
Most people on the dole did not have the skills or experience needed for many of the jobs and tightened work visa regulations had made it even more difficult.
Businesses in the CBD were also finding it hard, Sciascia said.
''Problems with the homeless and the people they attract is creating difficulties, particularly with businesses located in Tutanekai St and Eat St. If that problem is not resolved quickly, it is likely to impact on the coming summer tourist season.''
Reg Hennessy from Hennessy's Irish Bar said finding key roles, including chefs and licensed managers, was difficult.
Hennessy was fortunate to have longterm staff but said in the busy summer season he relied on backpackers from overseas because Kiwis did not want the work.
''We can't get young Kiwis in Rotorua. We haven't got a university in town, a lot of people leave home and sadly town.''
Destination Rotorua chief executive Michelle Templer said the hospitality sector was an important part of what made Rotorua a great place to live and visit.
''We know through research that one of the key drivers in what makes a great destination is the availability, quality and wide variety of food and beverage options."
Templer said the worker shortage was not just limited to hospitality. Construction, forestry and tourism were also competing to attract talented people.
A new initiative called "Go With Tourism" was recently launched by the tourism industry to help match employers and employees and local tourism businesses actively collaborate to help encourage people into the sector.
Rotorua Chamber of Commerce chief executive Bryce Heard said he was surprised the hospitality sector needed more staff.
''We work with a number of hospitality businesses who are putting young people into employment. There are some good cadets coming through.''
Hospitality was one of the three biggest industries in Rotorua, he said, and a prime driver of the economy alongside tourism and forestry.
Ministry of Social Development regional commissioner Mike Bryant said the ministry had partnerships with many local employers within the hospitality industry.
''We have contracted providers working with our people to equip them with the skills, certificates and experiences to gain employment across a variety of areas in the hospitality sector. We also have a number of local contracts that specifically target recruitment in the hospitality sector.''
One of those was the Fast Track Partner Programme with Accor and Tourism Industry Aotearoa which offered training and employment at partnering hotels within the region to provide a range of job pathways for people to enter the hospitality industry.
It started as a pilot in 2017 with 30 trial participants, 27 completed training and were placed into employment.
Since then Rotorua has seen about 50 people a year placed into employment through the programme, he said.
Kirsty Wynn, editor of job website YUDU, said the hardest positions to fill at this time of the year were waitstaff.
''The restaurants are filling up and a lot of staff applying have working holiday or study visas. These come with certain restrictions.
''With the rising cost of produce, high market rent, and the high staff turnover, business owners tell us it's hard to consistently make a profit. Raising the pay rates would attract more to the industry but it could harm the business.''
Finding good staff and rewarding them to encourage them to stay was important, she said.
From potato peeler to head chef
Indian-born Abin Cherian started his career peeling potatoes and washing dishes at a local pub.
However, after years of hard work, Cherian has now been the head chef at the establishment for nearly seven years.
Cherian moved to Rotorua in 2009 when he was 19 years old looking for a brighter future than what he had in India.
He began studying locally and was living on a pittance while he searched for a job.
He knew he wanted a career in hospitality but jobs were hard to come by then and he settled for a cleaning job to survive.
Cherian finally landed a kitchen-hand gig at Hennessey's Irish Bar after four months of interviews.
It was here he discovered his love for cooking and, after years of learning and moving up, he was made head chef in 2012.
When asked why he thought people were turning their back on hospitality, he said people viewed the work as hard and were not willing to work weekends and late nights.
"This industry is about sacrifice . . . but at the end of the day, the opportunities are worth it."
He said if anyone had told him 10 years ago he would be head chef at a top pub, be married and have renovated a house he bought, he would not believe them.
His advice for anyone interested in getting into the industry was that hard work seriously paid off and give it a go.
- Caroline Fleming
Number of businesses closed in the Bay
Cafes and restaurants
2017 - 66
2018 - 51
Takeaway food services
2017 - 30
2018 - 39
2017 - 6
2018 - 9
Pubs, taverns and bars
2017 - 15
2018 - 6
Source: Restaurant Association of NZ