With unemployment rates dropping and tourism on the rise, regions like Waikato are beginning to experience significant shortages of hospitality staff, with some kitchens having to close as a result.

Phil McKay, owner of Tika café in Matamata, said that the problem was widespread.

“In general, unemployment is at a really low level, and there aren’t that many people left in the pool,” he said. “There will be a lot of industries feeling like they’ve got a shortage, some more extreme than others. Tourism has been growing strongly, and so that affects the hospitality industry across the country. We New Zealanders, we love our food and coffee, so the industry is going really well and we’re seeing a lot of new openings, but with that, there’s a lot of demand for staff.”

There are currently 38 job ads for chefs on job search site Seek, with 576 positions available nationwide. The Grand Tavern in Te Aroha was forced to close its kitchen for five months while it searched for a chef.

“If you talk to any other cafe or restaurant owners, everyone struggles with it and some are pretty desperate.”