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Restaurants, cafes turn to staff recruitment apps amid worker crisis – Sydney Morning Herald

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Hospitality businesses are increasingly turning to third-party recruitment apps to find temporary shift workers as critical staff shortages plague the industry, but some venues say reliance on the apps is not sustainable.
Recruitment app Supp – a platform for businesses to advertise temporary shifts to hospitality workers – said the number of available shifts had quadrupled since January to about 16,000 per month.
Hospitality One venue manager Jonathan Mooney said the Supp app has helped him fill shifts amid staff shortages in recent months.Credit:Joe Armao
Supp co-founder and chief executive Jordan Murray said the five-year-old start-up had seen a 40 per cent increase since January in the number of hospitality workers using the app to find work.
“The growth is driven by the skill shortage, the rising cost of living and the change in work preferences toward more flexibility,” Murray said.
“Our main customer base is smaller, independent venues who don’t have any internal backup to call on when their chef catches COVID or a regular staff member can’t make it. These venues are under more pressure than usual because of the shortage.”
Similar third-party staffing app Sidekicker has also seen an increase, with weekly worker sign-ups hitting an all-time high in June.
Chief executive and co-founder Tom Amos said the staff shortage meant sought-after workers were able to “try out” different businesses to find better conditions through the app. He said businesses were spending more on temporary Sidekicker workers rather than directly employing casual staff.
“We’re able to provide better data to business about what’s going on, and for the candidates, it’s just a significantly better experience, so we get more candidates coming to us,” Amos said.
Business leaders say a lack of foreign workers is driving economy-wide labour shortages, with fewer international students and working holidaymakers hurting hospitality venues. A recent Australian Retailers Association poll found 61 per cent of retail businesses said labour shortages had worsened over the past three months.
Hospitality venue manager Jonathan Mooney said his five Melbourne restaurants and bars started using staffing apps as worker shortages hit last year.
He said there were occasions when almost 70 per cent of staff at his South Wharf restaurant and bar The Common Man were recruited using the Supp app, allowing the businesses to stay open. But he said the business had now scaled back its usage of the app because it was “unsustainable” due to labour costs being about 30 per cent more than regular staff.
Supp said wages on its platform were generally 10 to 20 per cent higher than the award, with in-demand workers having “no appetite” for current award rates.
Supp also generates revenue by charging businesses a 12 per cent fee on top of the value of a shift, which includes insurance, sales tax and a payment processing charge.
Sidekicker charges businesses a standard service fee of 20 per cent, but directly employs workers and handles payroll. Supp doesn’t directly employ app workers and instead operates as a platform connecting them to businesses.
Mooney said relying on Supp to find workers meant the business was unable to train staff as it was not always possible to get the same workers.
Supp co-founder and chief executive Jordan Murray says shift volume has experienced a 25-fold increase since lockdowns ended.
“I would like to see it not have to be something that we rely on, rather something that we could use as a help for huge events or days when we just need one hand,” Mooney said.
Sidekicker – which was founded in 2012 – also services larger clients, such as Crown Casino, and provides staff for other industries like aged care. It also provides three different pay levels and said hospitality wages were rising as businesses competed for its staff.
Amos said Sidekicker tried to supply the same workers to businesses via dedicated talent pools and provided pathways for ongoing direct employment.
Supp allows businesses to flag when ongoing work is available and said 90 per cent of active users perform an average of one Supp shift per month to top up their regular income.
Student Siena Rigazzi said she used Supp to find extra shifts as a waitress in Melbourne after returning from Canberra for a short period. The 19-year-old said she found more work than expected on the apps and the pay was “really reasonable”.
“I know that once I’m situated at university I’m going to want the reliability of a part-time or casual hospitality job. But for a situation like this for a bit of extra work, I think it’s definitely really feasible,” Rigazzi said.
Both Amos and Murray said their apps would continue to grow, but permanent work with a single business would still be the dominant form of hospitality employment.
“Do I believe the world is going to be made up in the future of all these people having apps randomly working in different businesses all the time? No, I don’t believe that,” Amos said.
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