More Australians are eating out as coronavirus restrictions relax, but industry leaders are calling for immediate access to skilled workers from overseas to alleviate a national shortage of chefs, restaurant managers, and sommeliers.
The hospitality industry also heavily relies on front-of-house workers from other countries, including students and working vacationers.
The federal government recently relaxed a 40-hour per fortnight cap for international students already working in the sector and added hospitality to the list of critical industries for the purposes of a COVID-19 Pandemic Event Visa.
According to Oyuna Bordukh, a Sydney migration agent and director of Garuda Migration, many international students are pleased with the decision.
“By allowing onshore temporary visa holders to work in Australia, it will help alleviate skills shortages in critical sectors. It only targets those whose visas have expired in the last 28 days or will expire in 90 days or less,” Ms Bordukh explains.
“It's a wise decision because it allows people who would otherwise leave to stay in Australia and contribute to the country's economic recovery."
While the R&CA applauds the move, Mr Lambert believes more needs to be done.
“We have submitted to the Immigration Minister a proposal for a COVID recovery workforce visa, which would allow vaccinated, highly skilled workers to return to Australia.
“We need to bring in that highly skilled workforce as soon as possible, and before we open the borders to tourists.”
"With a lot more customers and catering, we're all working a lot harder than we used to," he says.
“Managing the staff with the volume of customers and sales requests is mentally taxing. However, there are a large number of [skilled workers] from other countries who desperately want to return to Australia. And they're just sitting there, waiting.”