THE CHEF owner of one of Limerick’s most popular daytime cafés has warned that there are huge question marks over the future of the catering and hospitality industry as he significantly cuts his opening times because he can’t get new staff.
Paul Williams, owner of Canteen in Catherine Street, has slashed his opening hours to four days a week, with service from just 8am to 4pm, as a response to the ongoing recruitment crisis across the hospitality sector.
The well-established difficulties in finding staff, and a desire to take the pressure off himself and his existing crew, prompted the decision he says.
“I want to keep the staff I have,” he told the Limerick Post.
“Before Covid, there would be a steady trickle of CVs coming in, so there were people we could call on but that’s all stopped.
“A lot of staff here have other interests, like being in a band or doing something outside work. They want work hours that allow them to go on doing that.”
The people who might usually have shown an interest in working in the food and hospitality business have been given pause for thought in their job search, says Paul.
“A lot of students wanted to work part-time but with the cost of accommodation in Limerick now, they can’t do that and pay their way. I really don’t know what the future is for this industry.”
Paul agrees that minimum wage can make the industry a lot less attractive.
“You might have a very good staff member and pay them more, but the reality is this is a business and we have to make a profit.
“And with a daytime café like ours, we don’t have the advantage of the mark up on wine and drinks that restaurants do.”
But, he says, the move to shorter hours has benefits for both him and his team.
“Now that I’ve taken the decision, I wonder why I didn’t do it years ago.
“When you own a business, you never really get a day off when the doors are open. If someone rings in sick or the coffee machine breaks down, you have to go in. And staff often have to stand in if someone can’t make their shift.
“This way, we all get two clear days off and, I have to say, I’m enjoying it.”