Hospitality businesses trying desperately to fill vacant staff positions are at risk of closing their doors due to a lack of experienced workers.
Creswick's French patisserie Le Peche Gourmand made a public post on its Facebook page earlier this week revealing owners were 'on the verge' closing an extra day because they could not find appropriate staff.
Owner Marie Williams said she and her husband had been working 14 hour days to operate the business due to a lack of experienced front of house staff.
"We have been looking for staff for over 12 months now," she said.
"I need two full-timers and at least one other casual for 30 hours a week. That is only to be able to open my normal five days.
"If we really can't find anyone in the next couple of months we are either going to have to close another day or completely shut our doors.
"Melbourne Cup Day was absolutely insane. It was great for business but not great on the staff. The ones we have now get tired and worn out because it is so busy and so hard."
Ms Williams said no overseas workers, vaccine mandates, skill shortages, a lack of affordable housing and their regional location was compounding a long-time staffing issue in the hospitality industry.
I need two full-timers and at least one other casual for 30 hours a week. That is only to be able to open my normal five days.Marie Williams, Le Peche Gourmand
She said she expected to get through until Christmas with school students able to work in the holidays period, but she desperately needed long-term solutions.
"If you talk to any restaurant or cafe in Daylesford or Ballarat, we are all struggling massively to find staff. It is quite depressing to be honest," Ms Williams said.
"We had a young girl from Maryborough apply that was really good and couldn't find affordable housing in Creswick or Ballarat. For her to drive from Maryborough every day it is not worth it."
RELATED COVERAGE: Hospitality industry faces skills shortage crisis
Lake House Daylesford owner and culinary director Alla Wolf-Tasker AM said skills shortages in the hospitality industry had long been an issue, but the coronavirus pandemic compounded the situation.
She said many hospitality workers had relocated away from Victoria due to long lockdown periods and now, mandated vaccinations have caused additional staffing issues across most industries.
"As someone who has worked really hard to help build the visitor economy in Victoria over the past four decades, it is dispiriting to see the extent of current issues for regional tourism," she said.
"Lots of places can only manage to stay open a certain number of days because of the shortages of workers.
"As a business we have had over 300 days of closure and economically unviable restrictions across Lake House operations.
"For us and every other business to not have enough staff to reopen and fulfill the full extent of the post lockdown demand is a catastrophe of enormous proportions.
"I talk to many small businesses whose owners have had the wind knocked out of them - especially this year. For some, these increased workforce shortages are the last straw."
RELATED COVERAGE:Skills shortages the next big challenge for the hospitality industry
Ms Wolf-Tasker said businesses not reopening to their usual capacity would make rebuilding the regions more difficult.
"We created the demand for visitation in regional Victoria. People are expecting that rich tapestry of experiences that we were so successful at marketing," she said.
"How can we fulfil that expectation now with an even greater reduced workforce? Visitors will face empty streets and closed doors on many days and evenings.
"I try to remain optimistic about rebuilding a sustainable regional tourism industry. We are going to need a lot of help.
"Part of that will need to be attracting people back here - to live, work and invest in Victoria and that entails a considerable rebuilding of confidence."
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