Staffing shortage forces some restaurants to reduce capacity
Pandemic-battered restaurants are now contending with a staffing shortage that has forced some establishments to reduce capacity to allow employees a break.
Philip Barnett, the president of the Island Restaurant Group, likened the continuing challenges of the reviving hospitality sector to a “super storm” as restaurants and bars deal with lost work hours because of fewer staff combined with “Covid still rearing its ugly head”.
An industry source also claimed the Department of Immigration was “not working at proper capacity” to get work permits cleared — telling The Royal Gazette that labour minister Jason Hayward was handling much of the workload.
Mr Barnett conceded that the shortfall in employee numbers was “a problem we must prefer over the Covid shutdown — it beats having no business, no opening hours and no hope”.
Asked about work permits, he said immigration officials were likely “pressured with everybody trying to staff up all at once”.
Restaurant owners warned last month that the industry looked to be headed for trouble as rising tourism numbers and a post-pandemic hospitality resurgence were not being met with adequate staffing.
Mr Barnett said there was “a super storm multiplying everything” for restaurants pressed to keep up with demand.
“There’s a shortage of qualified workers, and there’s Covid,” he said.
“I’m frustrated to say this, but hospitality tends to be the job of last resort for returning students.
“Bermuda is an incredible place where we run these amazing internships in international business and offices, which takes a good chunk of people right off the bat.
“Any other jurisdiction would have large numbers of students coming home for the summer. In Bermuda, we don’t seem to get lucky that way.”
Mr Barnett said he had heard of establishments partially closing areas of their floor “just to be able to give everybody who’s working a day off”.
“There have been amazing staff working six, seven days a week these last couple of months. It’s about having to reject some business to give people some time off.”
He added: “It’s frustrating, but it’s necessary.”
Mr Barnett said there was “no shortage of individuals that want to come to Bermuda for work”.
He highlighted the Philippines, where “there are people who work for literally US$1 per hour”.
“We don’t have a unique situation here in Bermuda,” Mr Barnett said.
“This problem has been a similar experience though First World countries.
“So many people got out of the industry and went elsewhere. How many of those people are now delivery drivers for Sargasso?”