Catering firm owner: People won’t pay enough to keep up with wages

Philip Reynolds, owner of The Difference Catering, says he spent thousands of dollars advertising for chefs in the past couple of years. But most of the time he gets no applications and is now turning down new work because he does not have the staff to handle it.

“We are turning down new contracts because we are not going to work our staff to death, and temps are generally not committed,” Reynolds said.

He said while people wanted to dine out, they were not paying enough for restaurants and caterers to keep up with wages and overheads like rent. Trying to keep prices down meant the sector could not pay enough to attract experienced and committed staff, he said.

“A customer’s bill for dining out hasn’t increased for more than 10 years but the costs have escalated hugely,” he said.

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Unable to attract New Zealand staff he is paying more for middle-range chefs from overseas that he has to pay $25.50 an hour minimum and keep for two years.

“I am forced to do this because attracting New Zealand residents to work for about $23 an hour here isn’t happening. I would like to pay more but diners won’t pay more and so it is a tricky situation.”

New data shows that, across New Zealand, employers are struggling to find staff and are having to offer more pay.

Trade Me has released its latest jobs data, which show the site recorded its highest number of jobs listed ever in the quarter ended June 30.

Trade Me’s job listings increased by 25 per cent in the second quarter, compared to the same time in 2019. It now has more than 80,000 jobs listed.

The largest increases in the number of jobs advertised were in hospitality and tourism, up 56 per cent, manufacturing and operations up 52 per cent, and construction and roading up 45 per cent.

Trade Me spokesman Matt Tolich​ said these record vacancy numbers and listings were not likely to reduce.

“We are still seeing a massive candidate shortage in the market with the absence of migrant workers,” Tolich ​said.

“The fact is, right now there are not enough people in New Zealand to fulfil demand in numerous job categories, and this is constraining the ability of Kiwi business to grow,” he said.

Bay Of Plenty, Manawatū/Whanganui, Northland, Otago, Taranaki and Waikato all had record-breaking numbers of job vacancies. Job numbers in Nelson/Tasman and Hawke’s Bay were up 58 per cent and Gisborne 57 per cent, compared to 2019.

Tolich said Wellington had a 17 per cent increase in listings and Auckland 13 per cent. “Being the primary gateway to New Zealand, the Auckland job market has been impacted the most by our borders being closed and the lack of tourists, so it’s not too surprising that Auckland saw the smallest listing growth.”

A Trade Me survey showed just 17 per cent of respondents said they were looking to move jobs in the next 12 months. That is 10 per cent less than as 2020 survey.

Tolich said, to attract new staff, employers were putting more money on the table so there had never been a better time to apply for a new job. Average pay was higher than the company had seen in a decade.

All five of the highest-paying roles advertised on the site in the quarter were in IT.

Job site Seek reported similar results in May this year. For the third month running, it had a record-breaking number of job ads.

Trade Me jobs sales director Matt Tolich

Trade Me/Stuff

Trade Me jobs sales director Matt Tolich

It found demand for staff in Auckland, Wellington and Canterbury was highest with each experiencing an increase in job ads.

Spokeswoman Janet Faulding​ said job advertisements increased by 5 per cent month-on-month and were almost triple the volume that they were this time last year with job listings reaching just under 32,000.

Robyn Edie/Stuff

Abe de Wolde is seeking three more people to work on his dairy farms in 2ic positions but cannot find Kiwis to do the job.

Employers and Manufacturers’ Association spokesperson Michael Briggs​ said closed borders were leaving employers unable to expand as planned and unable to attract enough local talent. He was advising members to contact schools and polytechnics to attract young people.

“Manufacturing for example can be seen as ‘unsexy’ with no career path but, this mind-set can be changed, and we are encouraging businesses to go to job fares and get in front of young job seekers in particular,” Briggs​ said.

He said businesses were doing better than expect following the Covid-19 lock-downs and not as many expats were returning home as was expected.

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