PHOTO/ADOBE.STOCK.COM

MARY ARGUE
mary.argue@age.co.nz

The commute will no longer end with a cold craft brew at Masterton Train Station.

Sup HQ Brewery poured its final pint last week, closing its doors after a year, citing chronic chef shortages and a crippling economy.

Sup HQ is closing its doors after being unable to find a chef. PHOTO/MARY ARGUE

Co-owner Mark Harris said after five weeks of advertising for a chef, the hard decision was made to shut-up shop.

“You can only ring people so many times asking for cover. It’s sad, and we’re gutted.”

He said the brew bar had opened intermittently since losing a permanent chef, but it was not sustainable, and now he and the four other co-owners were looking at selling the business.

Harris said after a tough year economically, it was the final nail in the coffin.

The craft brewery began selling in supermarkets and alcohol stores in January 2017, but Harris said the five co-owners knew they needed a “shop front window”.

“Part of that requirement is to have a chef. We had an array of food that we thought would appeal to the general public.”

Sup HQ opened in August 2021.

“We hired our first chef and then went straight into lockdown.”

Harris said profit margins became thinner, and it got harder to keep trading in the economic climate.

He said people were still hesitant to go out in public, and inflation was wreaking havoc.

“You really need to be trading in a good economic environment.

“Unfortunately, everything has gone up in price. We had a nearly 20 per cent duty increase on our beer, and we absorbed that.

“How do you make money when everything is increasing around you. You can’t.

“We had to let go. It was just hard work – the last five weeks without a chef.”

Harris said Sup HQ had received four applications for the chef position.

Two were from overseas, and two applicants withdrew.

“We even got an application from someone in Jordan.”

Although Sup HQ had paid the ultimate price, Harris said the chef shortage was being felt across Wairarapa.

He said ringing around looking for chef CVs he found numerous establishments in the same situation.

“There are just a number of places that are looking for people. First of all, they are just trying to survive.”

He said he knew places were surviving week-to-week, hoping for a big weekend night or a large booking.

Harris said since the pandemic, it had felt like people were hesitant to work in hospitality and people-facing roles.

He said the government had fallen short in its support for businesses.

“I don’t think they have given us enough confidence to get out there and support businesses.”

He said a show of confidence could make a huge difference, but for Sup HQ, it was too late.

“I’m cutting my ties and moving on to something else.”

Lone Star in Masterton. Chefs have been flying in to help. PHOTO/FILE

Masterton Lone Star franchise owner Michelle Roseingrave said the chefs were in huge demand.

“The problem is massive. It has been ongoing since covid, but in the last six months, it has been dire.”

She said the closed borders had had a disastrous effect on the industry and they had searched high and low for chefs.

“We have tried every avenue. Every person we know, ex-staff, part-timers, anybody that will work a night is a godsend to us.”

Roseingrave suspected people were hesitant to work the classic brutal chef hours and thought more part-timers could be a solution.

“I don’t have the answers at the moment. All we can ask is that people are patient. Every hospo business is trying its best.

“We are lucky that as a Lone Star group. We have four travelling chefs.”

Lone Star group executive chef Gerhard Zitzenbacher said he had been flying chefs into Masterton every other week for a year and had 50-70 chef vacancies in Lone Star establishments across New Zealand.

“I could place them without even trying. In my 30 years in hospitality, I have never ever seen the industry this short-staffed.

“I’ve never seen it this dire. You just can’t find anyone.”

Zitzenbacher said people who did apply for jobs lack the necessary skills.

“There is a skill shortage. You see restaurants dropping days and closing because of it.”

He said the borders needed to open six months ago.

Immigration New Zealand has chefs listed on its long-term skill shortage and skill level list, but not on the regional skills shortage list.



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