Hospitality feels heat due to staff crisis

Munster restaurant and hotel owners say recruiting chefs and other hospitality staff now takes months, with many forced to recruit staff from abroad at the start of the tourist season.

The owner of O’Connor’s Seafood restaurant in Bantry, Co Cork, Shane Spillane, said before the Covid pandemic he would have received up to 100 applications for a position.

“Now you would be lucky to get five for one position,” he said.

Mr. Spillane recently hired two chefs from Poland and Latvia. He said his head chef left his company last October and only managed to replace him five weeks ago.

He said: “Chefs are especially hard to find.”

Mr Spillane said: “The cost of staff has also skyrocketed – with the shortage of staff they are now a commodity.”

He added, however, that the reception staff deserved to have a salary increase.

Director of operations at Durty Nellie’s in Bunratty, Co Clare, Maurice Walsh, said positions such as chefs, managers and supervisors are particularly difficult to recruit at present.

Mr Walsh said there was a lack of experience among people applying for positions, while there were also salary increases to contend with.

And he said there were also problems with work permits for staff recruited from outside the European Union, pointing out that it can take up to seven months for staff to arrive in Ireland to take up a post. after passing the interview stage.

Padraig Hennessy of Clancy's Bar and Restaurant in Youghal:
Padraig Hennessy of Clancy’s Bar and Restaurant in Youghal: “During the pandemic, a lot of people changed industries when the sector was closed, and they opted for a better lifestyle.” Photo: Howard Crowdy

In Youghal, Padraig Hennessy of Clancys Bar and Restaurant agreed that it is very difficult to find chefs.

He said: “During the pandemic, a lot of people changed industries when the industry was shut down, and they moved to a better lifestyle.”

Shannon area vice-chairman of the Irish Hotels Federation, Dermot Kelly, said there was a big problem in the area, particularly with recruitment of chefs. And he said hotels with spas have also been struggling to recruit health and beauty staff since reopening after Covid pandemic restrictions.

“Some hotels are having to limit the number of guests they can have due to a shortage of chefs,” he said.

In recent days, chef Paul Flynn has tweeted about the difficulties he has had in staffing his restaurant, The Tannery, in Dungarvan, Co Waterford.

He said: “In our 25 years of business, we have never experienced such a personnel crisis. Thank goodness for the TY students who kept us afloat this spring. Absolutely no wait staff available.

Earlier this year, a study by Fáilte Ireland estimated that there were up to 40,000 vacancies in the tourism sector due to restrictions linked to the Covid pandemic.

A study of the hospitality industry carried out by trade union Unite last June, titled ‘The Hidden Truths – The Reality of Working in the Hospitality and Tourism Sector in Ireland’, highlighted a number of concerns.

Study participants said “they were routinely denied basic rights and entitlements and routinely subjected to abusive behavior.”

The study noted: “The majority have suffered significant financial losses during the pandemic, and most see no prospect of staying in the hospitality business long term.”

Unite tourism and hospitality co-ordinator Julia Marciniak said workers in the sector are being hit by inflation and high accommodation costs in Ireland, particularly Dublin.

She said: “People are working full time and living in poverty.”

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