New report reveals the pandemic’s impact on Australia’s hospitality industry

food outlet

A new report from the shift work platform Deputy titled “Staying Open: Future-Proofing Aussie Hospitality” revealed the long-lasting impact the pandemic has had on the hospitality industry, its current situation, and its prospects in the near future. The report looked at over 12 million shifts between January 2020 to October 2021, comparing them by generation, age, state and industry sector.

The report found that the hospitality industry experienced an 80 per cent decrease in shift-work hours in April 2020, during the first one to two months of the pandemic. Since then, it has had an average of 30 per cent fewer shift work hours compared to pre-pandemic operations. Bars and pubs were most significantly impacted by COVID-19, with shift-work hours declining more than 90 per cent in April 2020. And while some states have fared better, lockdowns in New South Wales and Victoria meant they operated at half their employment capacity in 2021.

On the other hand, the report found cafes and coffee shops, which were able to pivot quickly, thrived throughout the pandemic. In these sectors, shift work hours have continued to improve and remained significantly higher than employment levels before the pandemic. Similarly, restaurants went from operating 80 per cent below pre-pandemic levels in April 2020 to 80 per cent above these levels in May 2021. This recovery is attributed to the minimal restrictions in this time and the domestic travel boom. The report noted though that these gains were scuttled by the recent 2021 lockdowns in Sydney and Melbourne.

With lockdowns easing, the report stated that the hospitality industry saw a 52 per cent increase in shift hours worked in October compared to September. Another positive development noted was that the industry is now experiencing a boost thanks to consumer spending, especially since Australians have accumulated more than $200 billion in household savings due to international travel bans and other restrictions, thus are more inclined to spend money at their favourite restaurants, venues, bars, and pubs.

The report has been created in partnership with labour economist Shashi Karu who also has given a prediction that the COVID-19 pandemic will open a new chapter of reforms and benefits for the shift workers of the hospitality industry.

“We can expect a silver lining from COVID-19 to be the introduction of reforms to childcare, wages and job security, Karu said. “As the industry faces a worker shortage due to border closures, business owners will need to find ways to entice talent as competition will be fierce. The result of this will be shift-workers having more bargaining power than previously seen in the industry.”

Ashik Ahmed, CEO and Co-Founder of Deputy described the transformation the hospitality industry has gone through as a result of the pandemic as “incredible”, adding that while COVID has had a devastating impact on many businesses, the resilience of many of Deputy’s customers has been an inspiration.

“As we look ahead, the hospitality industry is set to face a range of challenges as it navigates vaccination passports, workforce shortages, up-skilling and the adoption of technology in the workplace,” Ahmed said. “However, I remain optimistic that as a result of COVID-19, we will see necessary industry reforms for shift workers, including around better childcare, more secure jobs and benefits.”