Cafes and restaurants on the NSW South Coast are shutting up shop during the first normal tourist summer in years because they cannot hire enough staff.

Many hoped this season would provide relief after fires, floods, the pandemic, and wet weather kept people away over the past three summers.

But for some, a lack of workers means they have been unable to capitalise on the return of the tourist dollar. 

For Batemans Bay restaurant owner Ray Ramzy, it was the last straw.

“After seven years of success, being known, people coming from Canberra for our food, we’re putting our business up for sale,” he said.

“It’s sad to say.”

Batemans Bay Business Chamber president David McLachlan said it was a difficult setback for many.

“It’s hard to get staff; it’s hard to retain staff,” he said.

“Like every small business in regional areas, it’s just damn tough.”

Venues at 50 per cent capacity

Stingrays Ocean Grill, where Mr Ramzy is the owner and manager, used to sit about 300 people across two dining sessions each day.

But with just a handful of staff, he was only able to accommodate about 200 diners a day this summer.

A man cuts up a white fish in an industrial kitchen.
Restaurant owner and chef Ray Ramzy has had to run his kitchen alone because he cannot find staff.(ABC South East NSW: Holly Tregenza)

“We can’t open our doors and extend our hours because there is just no staff to do the job,” he said.

The staff he had managed to recruit were often teenagers who lacked experience and could not work late shifts.

“We used to run two sessions: 5pm to 7pm and then 7:30pm to 10 o’clock,” he said.

“At the moment, we just do one session, 5pm to 8pm because the kids are so tired and we don’t want to get them too stressed.”

Cafe owner cannot even find ‘unskilled’ staff

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