Because cooks and waiters are missing: Restaurants in the Bautzen district cut opening hours

To make work in the catering industry more attractive, the NGG trade union is calling for a 3,000 euro starting salary. Restaurateurs in the Bautzen district are relying on other solutions.

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Das Bild zeigt eine Frau und zwei Männer.
Katrin Dils from the Alte Wassermühle in Obergurig employs, among others, main cook Marcel Zaunick (l.) and Mario Dommel, who is currently retraining as a cook. But to eliminate one of the two days off, she would need even more staff. © Steffen Unger

From David Berndt

Bautzen. Katrin Dils doesn't know exactly where the rumors came from. But after several guests asked, the owner of the Old Water Mill in Obergurig reacted in the summer: "We are not closing," it says in large letters on her home page on the Internet.

Although she is currently looking for a cook and staff for service and cleaning, the kitchen and service are nevertheless well staffed, assures Katrin Dils. This is also due to the fact that she and her husband are helping out. In 2020, they had taken over the restaurant. In addition to head chef Marcel Zaunick, Mario Dommel also works in the kitchen. He is a trained butcher and has just started his two-year retraining as a chef. However, Katrin Dils would need more staff to eliminate one of the current two days of rest.

NGG demands 3,000 euros starting salary in the catering industry

Many restaurants in the district of Bautzen lack cooks and service staff. According to the Food, Beverages and Catering Union (NGG) there are more than 50 unfilled positions. In addition, there are 22 vacant training positions. As a result, more and more landlords are having to restrict opening hours or introduce additional days off. The employment agency Bautzen confirms the more than 50 vacancies. Of the 22 trainee positions, however, eleven are occupied.

Higher wages and better working hours are the key to more staff, says Thomas Lißner, NGG managing director for the Dresden-Chemnitz region. As a solution, he proposes a starting wage for all those who work full-time in the hotel and catering industry after completing their training. "The fair starting wage is at least 3,000 euros," says Lißner.

But she can't pay a 3,000-euro salary across the board, says Katrin Dils. "To do that, I would have to massively increase prices. But then no more guests would come, and we'd be out of business after two months."

Restaurants restrict opening hours

For Jens Richter from Radeberg, this salary demand is also utopian. That could only come from someone "who is not in practice. We have to earn this money first," says the shareholder and managing director of the Hoga Sport Ltd. In Radeberg, these include the Hotel Sportwelt, the Hotel Kaiserhof, the Restaurant Seeterrasse and Art Catering.

Das Bild zeigt einen Mann in einer Restaurantküche.
Jens Richter is in the kitchen of the Timmermanns restaurant at the Hotel Sportwelt in Radeberg. Recently, Sundays have become a day of rest here. As shareholder and managing director of Hoga Sport GmbH, Richter is responsible for the Hotel Sportwelt, the Hotel Kaiserhof, the Res © René Meinig

A trained chef naturally earns more than a temp, says Jens Richter. Personnel are always in demand in the industry, including in his hotels. "We already pay skilled workers well. The problem of staff shortages can't be solved by money alone."

However, he said, it is difficult to find employees for the hotel and restaurant industry. "In these services, many no longer want to work because of the hours on weekends, evenings or holidays. During Corona, many left and didn't come back."

This is now having an effect on opening hours, confirms Jens Richter. The Timmermanns restaurant in the Sportwelt hotel is now closed on Sundays, and the Radeberger brewery taproom is now only open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. instead of continuously on Sundays.

Search for gastro staff takes longer and longer

Innkeeper Mario Friedrich from the Pechhütte in Liegau-Augustusbad has been looking for cooks and waiters for two years. He says he lost employees because of the loss of pay due to short-time work during the Corona pandemic. "I had to change my opening hours and introduced a second day of rest with Tuesday," he says.

According to the employment agency, the search for personnel in the catering industry is taking longer and longer. In the Dresden-Lausitz region, the number of days needed in 2022 was 183, 49 more than in 2021. The median gross pay for full-time employees in the district of Bautzen "in food preparation occupations" was 2,169 euros in 2022, according to the agency.

Dehoga: 16 percent of restaurants closed

Axel Klein, managing director of the Dehoga Saxony hotel and restaurant association, calls the 3,000 euros a "good idea." "However, it has to come from somewhere. The customer would have to pay it in the end. But should the schnitzel then cost 30 euros?"

In the past two years, he said, restaurant wages have already increased by 30 percent and gas and electricity prices by 14 percent. "But the restaurants have only increased their prices by seven percent in the same period. Actually, it should have been more," says Axel Klein. 16 percent of the restaurants in the district of Bautzen had closed during this period. There were 1,450 pubs in the whole of Saxony.

The economic pressure is enormously high. The consequences are more days off and shorter opening hours. "Innkeepers are paying more and more attention to using their staff efficiently. Many are focusing on family celebrations. Staff, purchasing and a relatively secure turnover can be planned there."

Pulsnitz shooting range relies on targeted immigration

In addition to the restaurant business also sets up Dirk Busch in the shooting gallery Pulsnitz many celebrations. He runs the restaurant with his father Gerd. The house is open daily from 11 a.m. continuously. Dirk Busch is not short of cooks.

But the German labor market alone will not be enough, as in other industries, he said. "We rely on targeted immigration and work with an agency for this. We have a Polish and a Pakistani cook, as well as an Indonesian cook and waiter each in training," reports Busch.

He would not begrudge anyone a salary of 3,000 euros, but a company would first have to earn that. Trained staff with professional experience already earn that in some cases. However, rising wage costs lead to higher prices for products and services. "This sets in motion a wage-price spiral that leads to higher incomes, but is not automatically associated with more purchasing power," says Dirk Busch. "If prices rise too much, customers will no longer pay for it." He says this starts with industries that do not serve to secure basic needs. "That applies to the restaurant industry."

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