Lack of staff forces pub to shut down its kitchen

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With fewer foreign workers coming to the Island than in the past, bars and restaurants, as well as agriculture and retail businesses, say they are finding it increasingly difficult to recruit the staff they need to operate.

Now the manager of The Lamplighter pub has said that the recruitment problems are the worst he has seen in 40 years in the trade in both Jersey and Guernsey.

And Christine Hellio, who runs Manor Farm in St Ouen, said that the lack of agricultural workers could contribute to rising food prices or even food shortages with produce being left to rot in fields as there is no one to pick it.

Sean Murphy, who has run The Lamplighter for 12 years, said that all his chefs quit within a three-week period and he has been unable to replace them as businesses fight over skilled staff.

‘This has happened over the last three weeks. We had three chefs. One handed in his notice and then another one did as well,’ he said.

‘And with the other two gone, the last one decided to look elsewhere and got a good offer and decided to leave too.

‘It’s going on everywhere in hospitality. It’s not just with chefs, I am struggling to find bar staff and restaurants can’t find waiters and waitresses.’

Mr Murphy, who has placed a blackboard outside the pub saying: ‘Due to the lack of qualified chefs and general hospitality workers on-Island we’re sorry but our kitchen is now closed until the situation changes’, said the current staffing situation is the ‘worst he has ever seen’.

‘I have been in the business 40 years and I have never known it to be this bad. And I have been speaking to friends that I still have in Guernsey and they say that it is exactly the same situation over there,’ he said.

‘I blame the government for this. I think that they have failed to look after the hospitality sector and put all their eggs in one basket with finance.

‘What you will see is more businesses like ours either fully or partially closing down.’

He added that he would like to reopen the pub’s kitchen at some stage.

Mr Murphy said that he pays the chefs in his kitchen £11 an hour and his bar staff £9 an hour, which is above the minimum wage. He added that he cannot afford to pay high wages as the premises is rented and he wants to keep food prices low for customers.

Murray Norton, chief executive of the Jersey Chamber of Commerce, said that numerous businesses across the Island are suffering similar staffing problems to The Lamplighter.

He added, however, that he believes there is no easy solution to the problem, which has been caused by a number of factors including foreign workers being attracted elsewhere and high accommodation costs in Jersey.

‘Less workers are coming here because they can get better pay elsewhere and the exchange rate has fallen,’ he said.

‘And then accommodation in Jersey is in very short supply and is very expensive. I think it is a very difficult problem for the government to resolve.

‘What businesses can do is try to boost their productivity, such as being able to order electronically in restaurants or the automated check-ins at Premier Inn. But it is limited what you can do with that.’

Mr Norton added that a shortage of staff could cause increasing wages bills for firms as they fight over employees, which in turn could lead to price hikes for customers.

Mr Murphy wrote the following post on social media announcing the closure of The Lamplighter’s kitchen

‘I’m sorry and annoyed that our kitchen is now closed. I’m unsure if or when it will reopen due to the Islandwide shortage of chefs and general hospitality workers.

‘It’s very annoying to build up a good business to have it closed due to the lack of skilled workers being available, and before anyone says we should pay more we were giving a fair wage for a small pub which was trying to offer good food at a reasonable cost. Alas, we can no longer do this.

‘I now would like to thank all my staff for their hard work and a big thanks to all our customers who have enjoyed our food, let’s hope something can be done to sort out these shortages as I’m sure we’ll not be the last to close part, or all, of a business.’

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