Melbourne restaurateurs fly overseas to recruit workers ahead of busy Christmas period


Blacher said hiring foreign chefs was a ‘long-term game’ for Commune and the owners said it would give stability to the business, with restaurateurs having to be innovative to deal with shortages of staff.

“If you do the sums, it’s not a cheap exercise when you bring over 30 employees, but we see it as an investment in the future of our business and we really make sure we can keep the doors open. “, did he declare.

Commune has already hired foreign chefs, including Andrew Sung and Liam Lee, who come from South Korea and were sponsored to work here for two years.

Chris Lucas’s Lucas Group, which operates restaurants including Chin Chin and Society, also hired 30 people at a job fair in Dubai, as well as recruiting in Asia and New Zealand.

Lucas said his restaurants were around 250 short of staff and had gone overseas to hire “really highly specialized roles” such as sushi masters.

“Obviously we are looking to complement our skills with specific internationals,” he said. “Our real focus is this year in Australia, we know the right long term solution is homegrown talent.”

Restaurateur Chris Lucas has also traveled overseas to hire staff.Credit:Joe Armao

Lucas said his restaurants are focused on improving staff training and creating a workplace with better work-life balance.

“We don’t just do one thing, we look at everything we can do to attract and keep the best,” he said.

Earlier this year, Hunter St Hospitality, the company behind Rockpool, Spice Temple, Munich Brauhaus and The Bavarian, recruited 125 recruits from the Middle East, Europe and the United States on a trip three weeks at a cost of $10,000 to $20,000 per employee. which included visas, application fees, flights and accommodation.

“We met with hundreds of people face to face, which allowed us to make offers on the spot to the best candidates,” said general manager Thomas Pash.

Liam Lee is another overseas chef who now plies his trade in a Melbourne kitchen.

Liam Lee is another overseas chef who now plies his trade in a Melbourne kitchen.Credit:Simon Schluter

The Australian Foodservice Advocacy Body said the hospitality sector was struggling with a labor shortage of 95,000 people.

“The problem is not solved by the slow trickle of working holidaymakers, international students and skilled migrants, and certainly with an almost 70% dropout rate in food trades at TAFE, it there’s no magic bullet to fix the problem,” manager Wes Lambert said. . “Many companies travel around the world to recruit their own staff to try to speed up the process.”


Lambert said government efforts to bring more skilled workers to Australia were proceeding at “a snail’s pace” and a proposal to raise the skilled immigration cap from 160,000 to 200,000 was a move positive but would not solve problems with bureaucracy, including slow processing of visas. time.

“The restaurant industry is calling on the government not only to lift the cap, but also to remove barriers such as strict English tests and prohibitive fees to sponsor professionals,” he said.

The government is facing a backlog of visas to process with figures as of August 5 showing just over 924,000 applications for permanent and temporary visas awaiting processing, including 22,900 applications for temporary qualified visas.

A Home Office spokesperson said more than 1.1 million visa applications were finalized between June 1 and August 5, including 16,700 qualified temporary visa applicants.

“The Home Office is working to reduce the number of pending visa applications resulting from COVID-19 travel restrictions and has seen strong growth in new applications,” the spokesperson said.

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