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Restaurants hunt for staff after downtime in Latvia

While it is customary that at the beginning of summer owners of restaurants and bars face a labor shortage with the opening of terraces, this year has turned out to be a whole hunt for employees, Latvian Radio reported June 10.

Many qualified chefs and waiters have found employment in another profession during downtime, and it is difficult to attract new forces to the industry. Uncertainty about how long the restaurants will be able to stay open does not help.  All restaurant owners surveyed by Latvian Radio admit that there are some difficulties in attracting the workforce every summer, but this year the situation is disastrous, which also brings a substantial increase in wages.

The restaurant Kaļķu Vārti has yet to open the door and plans to do so at the end of this month. Restaurant Chief Executive Sandra Sirmace said that finding employees is very difficult.

"Now, of course, identifying our staff situation, we have come to the conclusion that we have a problem of assembling a team. It's really impossible to find a cook in the labor market now. Many have gone to work in other industries at this time because they just had to survive. With a downtime allowance of €500, it was impossible to survive. Many don't plan to return to the catering industry anyway. You can see wages have climbed. And now it looks like there will only be a buy-out in our industry, which means even more wage increases,” Sirmace said.

Skilled workforce is lacking. Waiters and chefs with experience also want to receive more in salary than before the pandemic, because the demand for hospitality in the labor market is higher than the offer. "Qualified, [someone] who has worked as a cook and knows something, or a waiter – it costs. Of course, you can look at students, but you have to count on investing great resources while you train young people. And then it will be autumn, and they have to study again, and there is no employee again," Sirmace said.

Mārtiņš Bērziņš represents a restaurant chain that has three restaurants and one bakery. He also said that the situation of attracting new employees is worrying and that wage increases in the sector are significant.  In the past, about 20 people per day responded to a job advertisement, but now there are up to ten applications per week. He acknowledged that the stressful situation was leading to different methods of recruitment for catering companies. Buy-in, too.

Chef of the restaurant Ferma and head of Restaurant Service school, Māris Astičs, also faces labor shortage. "At the second breaking point, we decided that everyone would go their own way because we could no longer survive the second phase [of the pandemic]. There is little left of the team, in principle the team needs to be reassembled because many have changed professions, for example, gone to IT or to some more stable industries, because there is uncertainty about what will come next. It's complicated. Indeed, many don't want to work and choose to stay unemployed after being on downtime and enjoy the summer. So I suppose if you ask chefs about their team they will admit it's a problem.”

However, despite the difficulties, restaurant owners surveyed by Latvian Radio are pleased that there is an opportunity to resume their work.

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