It is no secret that the hospitality industry in Australia is facing major staffing challenges, especially in recruiting for skilled roles such as chefs. The shortage of skilled visas has added to the problem, with many foreign chefs unable to work in the country. This has led to an increased demand for local workers and resulted in increased competition, for a limited pool of talent, and higher turnover rates.

The hospitality industry is one of the largest employers in Australia. In fact, according to the Australian Government's, Labour Market Update Report (Feb 2023), there are more than 946,000 people employed across the accommodation and food service sectors.

And while the hospitality sector is expected to grow in coming years it remains hindered by the lack of skilled workers, particularly in chef and kitchen positions. In the report noted above, "Chefs" were listed as number 8 in the top 20 occupations in demand nationally at the moment, and number 6 in Queensland.

Adding to the problem, in areas like the Sunshine Coast, is the inability to secure affordable accommodation which is only exacerbating the problem for employers in trying to find and keep staff.

In order to address the staffing difficulties being experienced in the hospitality industry, the government needs to take action to encourage more people to enter the industry and to provide support for businesses to find and retain staff. This could include providing training and education programs to help workers acquire the skills needed to work in the industry, and offering incentives for businesses to recruit and retain staff.

The government could also consider relaxing the visa requirements for skilled workers, to allow more foreign chefs to work in the country. This would help to address the shortage of skilled workers and would also provide businesses with access to a wider pool of talent. However, looking at viable options for securing affordable accommodation is something that must also be considered.

A major consequence of these difficulties is that cafes, restaurants, and bars are currently the second highest source of insolvencies in Australia, with many businesses struggling to stay afloat. The high number of insolvencies in the industry can be attributed to several factors, primarily the staffing difficulties discussed above, increased competition, and the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The staffing difficulties, including the shortage of skilled workers and high turnover rates, have put pressure on businesses in the hospitality industry, making it difficult for them to maintain consistent staffing levels and to provide high-quality services to customers. This has resulted in decreased customer satisfaction and lower revenue, which has contributed to the high number of insolvencies in the industry.

Increased competition is also a factor, with many new businesses entering the market. This has led to increased pressure on existing businesses to compete, for both customers and staff, and driven down revenue as they are forced to compete on pricing and wages.

The staffing difficulties being experienced in the hospitality industry in Australia are cause for concern. While there are no easy answers to what is a complex problem we need to start finding solutions to encourage hospitality as a career choice, entice skilled hospitality workers back to Australia, and support business operators to grow and thrive in this sector. And with the Olympic Games to be held across SEQ in less than 10 years - time is of the essence.

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