Businesses on the Sunshine Coast are being forced to cut hours and even days of operation as they battle to find and retain staff.
- Business owners say staff shortages are worse now than during the pandemic
- Many traders are cutting hours, but theme park Aussie World has extended its opening times to retain staff
- Business groups say affordable housing and higher-density developments need to be prioritised
Some operators say trading conditions are more challenging now than they were during the COVID-19 pandemic because there are simply not enough people available to keep businesses running.
Moffat Beach Brewing Co general manager Craig Williams said a chef shortage, in particular, had severely impacted the business.
“We’ve had to alter opening hours, opening days, meal service times,” Mr Williams said.
“We’ve had to drop breakfast for a week … close the restaurant down for a weekend because we just couldn’t find staff.”
He said it was an “employee’s marketplace” and while employers made efforts to entice workers by paying above the award rate, it was not always possible.
“The margins in hospitality are always so razor thin, those costs eventually have to pass on to the consumer,” Mr Williams said.
“It’s almost been harder operating in the past 12 months than it was during the pandemic.”
Workers ‘pushed out’
Caloundra Chamber of Commerce president Michael Shadforth said his group had recently surveyed Sunshine Coast operators who identified the staff shortage as their biggest hurdle.
“It’s much worse now … businesses in hospitality aren’t opening Monday and Tuesday anymore,” Mr Shadforth said.
“We spoke to somebody yesterday who lost a mechanic to Gympie just because they can’t afford the rent here.
“There’s a range of people who aren’t even looking for staff because [workers] can’t stay anywhere.”
Mr Shadforth said “wealthy” interstate migrants had driven up property prices in recent years.
“Places like Warana and all of that Kawana stretch have gone from really affordable rent to prestige property — and it should be, it’s a beautiful part of the world — but those people are being pushed out,” he said.
“You talk to anyone about Noosa and [they say] no-one can afford to live in Noosa. Well, that is happening all around the Sunshine Coast now.”
Taking a hit
Unlike other businesses that have cut hours, one of the Sunshine Coast’s biggest tourist attractions has extended its opening times in a bid to keep its workforce.
Aussie World has returned to pre-pandemic trading hours — operating seven days a week.
The park’s general business manager Shannon Fay said it was a move aimed at providing more hours to employees, particularly casuals.
“We’ve made that decision consciously, primarily based around staffing,” Mr Fay said.
On Thursday, there were only about 80 guests at the park, with 20 staff rostered on.
Mr Fay admitted that operating costs exceeded revenue on quiet days.
“There are some sacrifices that we have made,” he said.
“But that’s all in the name of trying to keep that staff level up and keep the workforce in place.”
The Caloundra Chamber of Commerce plans to lobby all levels of government for housing solutions.
Mr Shadforth said high-density development in “appropriate” locations near business hubs would alleviate the problem.
“If we don’t plan properly for the expansion of the coast in the right ways, we’re not going to have the young people living here to be able to support and grow the economy,” he said.
“And with the lack of transport we have on the Sunshine Coast and the emphasis going on solving the problem in 10 years, these businesses are really concerned they won’t even be here when the tram arrives or the train comes.
“They need a solution now and they need a place for these people to stay.”
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