WHILE COVID lockdowns may be a thing of the past, business owners have been left asking, 'Where is everyone?'.
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Staff shortages are an increasing problem in Bathurst and the hospitality industry in particular has been hit hard.
The first thing customers see when they walk into many of the cafés around town is a staff shortage sign, and Country Coffee is no exception.
The local café has been looking for staff for a number of weeks now, and owner Jane Issa said it seems there's just no one looking for a job.
"It's everywhere, I don't understand where everyone is. Honestly I don't get it," she said.
"It's in literally every field, everyone I talk to doesn't have staff. It's not just hospitality, it's everywhere."
When Charles Sturt University Bathurst transitioned to online study during the pandemic, it had a major impact on the local café.
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Ms Issa said she's lucky that the staff she does have are very good and they'll just keep ticking along and doing their best to satisfy customers until they find more staff.
"The staff that we do have are unreal, so we are very lucky that the staff that we do have are good," she said.
"Customers have definitely been better since I've put up a sign. One Sunday we had no staff and we told every customer when they walked in, 'This is how it is, there's going to be a wait'.
"Everyone was beautiful, it's probably the first time that we noticed not one person complained, not one person was in a hurry."
Harvest Café & Store owner Chris Ringrose said he has also been experiencing the same problem, finding it difficult to hire higher skilled staff like baristas and managers.
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Mr Ringrose said he is focusing on training his staff in as many areas as possible, but training people up takes time.
"It all just streams into the fact that we're in a service industry that's running out of service staff," he said.
Harvest Café is in the process of implementing an ordering system where customers can place their orders from the table.
While staff will still be at the counter, the system will mean customers don't have to wait in a long line on busy days and it will ease the workload for staff, especially on days when the business is down an employee or two.
Mr Ringrose is a member of the Restaurant and Catering Association and he said the organisation is currently partitioning for improved and streamlined industry awards.
"The industry needs a shake up ... we work hard but sometimes you don't feel like you're benefitting from it. The award needs to change."
Mr Ringrose said there's so many positives to working in the hospitality industry, and he encourages anyone interested in pursuing a career in the industry to do so.
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