Baristas in high demand as cafes grapple with staff shortages

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A nationwide labor shortage has resulted in “phenomenal” wages for some trades, while the government promises further immigration adjustments will help ease pressures on the workforce.

On Sunday, Immigration Minister Michael Wood announced that 12,000 more holidaymakers could come to work in New Zealand over the next year, and median wage requirements for migrant workers in certain sectors would be temporarily relaxed.

The country’s borders fully reopened last month, but fewer people were traveling than before the Covid-19 pandemic, and New Zealand was competing with other countries for migrant labour.

Wood acknowledged that the hospitality and tourism sectors were particularly hard hit.

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Barista Academy co-owner Rachel Berry said she’s never seen such high salaries for trained coffeemakers.

She said baristas could earn up to $30 an hour, an increase of around 60% from three years ago, when they would have been paid the minimum wage of $16.50 .

“It’s going so badly, cafes are poaching each other… it becomes every man for himself when the demand for staff is so high.”

Wait staff also attracted high salaries, with one inexperienced recently earning a starting salary of $27 an hour.

According to data from Stats NZ released earlier this month, the median hourly wage across all industries rose 6.8% in the year ending June 2022, to $29.66.

Some inexperienced waiters can earn as much as $27 — even $30 — an hour due to a nationwide labor shortage.

Christel Yardley / Stuff

Some inexperienced waiters can earn as much as $27 — even $30 — an hour due to a nationwide labor shortage.

Sales workers now earned a median of $23 an hour, while laborers earned $23.97, community and personal service workers $25.33, and technicians and trades workers $28.40.

Berry, who also owns Auckland cafe The Business of Coffee, said the hospitality industry was struggling without international working holiday visa holders.

“I was surprised how many people we were training while our borders were closed. They are all young people, and now they are telling us that they have gone abroad. We are training them to leave our country.

Their reasons for leaving varied, but the cost of living was a big factor, she said.

Little Poms owner Ava Nakagawa said it was really difficult to recruit staff, but she believed it would get easier since the borders reopened.

His Christchurch cafe paid living wage (currently $22.75 an hour) as a starting point for juniors and part-timers and grew from there.

She was unable to pay more than $30 for a barista when she only charged $4.50 for a coffee. She didn’t think customers would want to pay $5 to $6.

It wasn’t just about salary, Nakagawa said. She provided other benefits, including health insurance, Christmas holidays, and a good environment.

Cafes have started poaching good baristas from each other, says cafe owner Rachel Berry.

AIMAN AMERUL MUNER / Stuff

Cafes have started poaching good baristas from each other, says cafe owner Rachel Berry.

Productive People director Tania Washer said the cafes are “constantly looking for staff” and are ready to welcome people with no experience.

His company had partnered with the West Coast Trades Academy to create a new course for high school students to learn about coffee trades.

The students worked part-time on weekends while still in school, she said.

Washer also managed the Development West Coast Skills Enhancement Project, which helped companies pay for barista training.

Underground Coffee Roasters national sales manager Brad Chittock said he was hearing cafe owners from Northland to Invercargill struggling with staff shortages.

“It’s lack of people combined with sick people and it’s been systemic throughout the pandemic era but has gone deeper since Omicron.

“It’s all over New Zealand, but particularly in areas that used to have international staff like Queenstown and Auckland,” he said.

Cox, left, with Foundation Cafe operations manager Susan Williams-Finch.  The pair say a good working environment is more important than pay rates.

Peter Meecham / Stuff

Cox, left, with Foundation Cafe operations manager Susan Williams-Finch. The pair say a good working environment is more important than pay rates.

Christchurch Foundation Cafe operations manager Susan Williams-Finch said she “definitely needs more staff”.

The hourly rate for its baristas had risen since pre-Covid times, with $23 to $26 an hour now on offer.

The cafe has tried to provide a supportive environment for its hard-working baristas, “to make them feel like what they’re doing is really valued,” Williams-Finch said.

Ella Cox, a full-time student, had worked part-time in the cafe for three weeks.

On Saturday, the team produced more than 700 coffees and consumed 40 liters of milk.

“You have to be on it.”

Many baristas wouldn’t want to work somewhere if the environment wasn’t good, “even if the pay was good,” she said.

Barista Justine Podio happy in her job at Fidel's Cafe in Wellington.

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Barista Justine Podio happy in her job at Fidel’s Cafe in Wellington.

Williams-French said she was “excited” about the additional working holiday visas announced on Sunday.

Roger Young owns the popular Wellington establishment, Fidel’s Cafe on Cuba Street, and he described the hiring situation in two words: “F… terrible.”

“These are unprecedented times – it’s not just baristas who are missing.

“We’ve been going there for 25 years and I’ve never seen anything like it.”

He said they were willing to train baristas, but it was the general shortage of hospitality staff that was killing them.

Young said he understood it was a case of supply and demand pushing wages up, but owners were under pressure from all sides they couldn’t afford to raise much more. rates.

“We can’t keep raising prices and charging $7 for a coffee.”

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