WELCOME BACK: Cherry Tree employees Chloe Riley and Arnel Walsh expect their service to become significantly busier in the coming weeks.
WELCOME BACK: Cherry Tree employees Chloe Riley and Arnel Walsh expect their service to become significantly busier in the coming weeks.

Staff shortages slam restaurants after Stage 2 surprise

WARWICK restaurateurs hit the ground running when Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk made the surprise announcement to bring forward Stage Two on the Road to Recovery, allowing up to 20 diners from midday Monday.

Owner of Cherry Tree Coffee and Dining Scott Morton was taken off-guard by the last-minute easing of restrictions and hurried into his premises on Fitzroy St, working “hours and hours until midnight, kicking boxes around”.

The roll back offers a welcome reprieve for hospitality businesses that have thus far been limited to 10 dine-in customers and takeaway services, offering them an opportunity to gradually re employ staff and get back in the black.

Manager of Rupert’s Bar and Grill Leanne Campbell said her team were pleasantly surprised by the news, and would be welcoming up to 20 diners effective immediately.

“It will make things so much easier,” she said.

“This means we can go back to allowing our customers to enjoy their full dining experience.”

Despite his best efforts, Mr Morton doesn’t anticipate Cherry Tree will be able to take the full number of permitted customers until Wednesday.

“There’s been a lot of interest but I’ve had to put off a lot of my staff, so we’re going to be absolutely slammed,” he said.

“There’s a whole lot of things that go on behind the scenes, people don’t realise what it takes just to be able to open the front doors.

“We’re not going to rush into it, we’re going to make sure we do everything properly.”

Just four staff members have been running Cherry Tree’s new takeaway service, and Mr Morton said they’d been “working their butts off”, occasionally clocking over 50 hours in a single week.

Ms Campbell said the team at Rupert’s was similarly scaled back, but looked forward to re-employing wait staff once they were sure of demand.

“I have a team willing and able to come back when we need them,” she said.

Rupert’s relies heavily on trade from travelling workers, so the easing of travel restrictions is predicted to help the restaurant immensely.

Mr Morton, too, predicts he will be able to rehire staff in the coming weeks but hopes customers will remain patient in the meantime.

The business-owner is cautious after the 10 person limit took its toll on customers, some of whom found it challenging to adjust to the ‘new normal’.

“The last few months have been a nightmare, an absolute rollercoaster,” Mr Morton said.

“Our staff are at the front line, policing social distancing rules and it’s been really tricky.

“It’s been frustrating for our customers and it’s been frustrating for us.”

Mr Morton said his staff had been rattled by customer interactions.

“The last few months was like nothing we’ve ever experienced before, and everyone is just dealing with it their own way,” he said.

“We can’t compromise on community safety – That’s a priority for us.”