Restaurants struggling due to staff shortages

Azlan Othman

Some local eateries are currently struggling to stay afloat, not owing to lack of customers, but rather from difficulties in finding employees.

Most of their staff are foreign workers who have returned to their home countries for personal reasons or ending their contracts.

A café in Batu Bersurat recently announced on social media that it was forced to cease operations, because of insufficient staff.

A popular coffee shop in Gadong has issued a notice, apologising for any inconvenience caused as it is also having a hard time finding and keeping workers.

Another favourite restaurant in the Gadong area has had to change its operational hours, to allow time for its workers to have adequate rest.

An expert in the food and beverage industry said, “Such predicaments are not only affecting the restaurant sector but also the agricultural, domestic helper and construction sectors. Once these foreign workers balik kampong (return home), they will not want to come back. We are not alone in facing this.

“Perhaps a short, one-month basic training course could be conducted for locals who are interested about venturing on this career path. Or maybe we need to review or revise the existing wages, staff accommodation, uniforms, performances bonus and so on.

“Restaurants may even have to restructure their services to fast food eatery concepts.

“Employers should also send their staff to attend supervisor or managerial courses.”

Netizens said that restaurant positions such as chefs and waiting on tables are not very popular among locals, but most restaurant managers have no such reservations about hiring locals.

“It’s actually cheaper, as we don’t need to pay agent fees, rent accommodation and provide meals for them. There is also no need to worry about quotas and paying for their ticket every one or two years, depending on the contract,” said one restaurant owner.

Last April, the Department of Economic Planning and Statistics (JsEPS) said that the mid-year population estimate of Brunei Darussalam for 2020 was 453,600 persons compared to 459,500 in 2019, a decline of 1.3 per cent.

The decline is due to the decrease in the number of temporary residents by 10.9 per cent, from 94,200 in 2019 to 83,900 in 2020.

This is attributable to the travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic, specifically on the entry of foreigners to Brunei Darussalam, where a number of foreign workers have left the country upon the expiration of contracts, while only a limited number of new foreign workers have been allowed to enter for certain sectors and jobs.