The head of Australia’s largest drinks retailer Endeavour Group has said the company is still struggling to find workers to staff its hundreds of pubs nationally as the country’s labour market crunch continues.
Steve Donohue, Endeavour’s chief executive, told The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald teams at the business’ 300-odd hotels were “working a bit harder than we’d like” due to a shortage of international workers who would usually fill gaps in the roster.
“Retail is not as challenged as it was through the Omicron wave, and we’re thankfully heading into a more stable environment,” Donohue said. “But hotels are still one of the more challenging areas.
“As international travel opens up and people can come and work in Australia, we’ll probably start to fill some of those gaps around in our kitchens. We’re starting to see that come back, but there’s quite a ways to go.
“People are really coming back to pubs, and it’s been a bit harder to serve their needs.”
Labour shortages were a huge issue for retailers during the peak of the Omicron wave as thousands of workers were forced to isolate due to the virus. This pressure has since eased, however with COVID cases likely to rise through winter combined with the threat of a severe flu season, companies are again pleading for more staff.
In March, some hospitality venues went as far as spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on extensive overseas hiring campaigns. Donohue said while this wasn’t necessary for Endeavour’s hospitality businesses, the company was looking overseas for software engineers to run the tech side of its business.
“We’ve got a billion-dollar e-commerce business that needs to be supported,” he said. “So we will probably increasingly have to source some of that capability both locally and internationally.”
Endeavour – which owns 344 hotels across the country alongside major drinks retailers BWS and Dan Murphy’s – on Thursday held its first investor day since its demerger from Woolworths last year, during which the business’ digital capabilities were a significant focus.
Between $40 million and $60 million was flagged by the company to be spent on its digital and data transformation over the next 12 months, with Donohue saying much of that focus would be on its hotels business, which is less advanced than Dan Murphy’s and BWS.
“We’ve got a good base to work from in hotels – we’ve got a lot of customer interaction, but we don’t know enough about those customers to serve them as well as we’d like to,” he said.
“What people are universally looking for is more convenience. People do want to tap, order and pay at the table, and they want to be able to book a hotel room on that same platform.”
Shares in the retailer slumped 5.6 per cent to $7.23 on Thursday as the company’s overall level of capital expenditure came in slightly higher than analysts had expected, though MST Marquee analyst Craig Woolford said the presentation reinforced Endeavour’s strong market position.