A restaurant owner struggling to find staff says he has been shocked by candidates asking to be paid off the books while they are furloughed from other jobs.
AM Dupee has had to delay the opening of sushi bar Temaki in London's Brixton by two weeks until July due to difficulty with recruitment.
He told The Caterer: "I started searching for staff a while ago and some of the interviews I've had have been shocking.
"People have asked to be paid off the books as they have other jobs or are furloughed. A couple of chefs literally said they didn't want to work that much and asked what the least number of hours was they could do.
"It's a nightmare for us. I've spent the last six months stressing that the restaurant isn't going to be open in time and now I'm stressing that it's going to be an empty restaurant with no staff."
People are allowed to work for other employers while furloughed, but only if their current contract allows it. Doing so does not impact pay, but must be declared to the government, and staff must be able to return to their job if their employer takes them off furlough.
Many hospitality staff are still being supported by the scheme. One in four restaurants, pubs, bars, and licensed premises have yet to reopen and data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows 55% of pub and bar staff were still furloughed at the start of May.
Operators across the industry are struggling to recruit and Dupee said a lot of experienced hospitality staff had been "snapped up" by other employers. He believes others who returned home to Europe during the pandemic may be put off by the cost of returning.
"I went to Greece to visit my girlfriend's family and it cost me £1,000 in Covid tests. The UK is already very expensive, and I think [the costs] would be scary for Europeans who would need to come and look for a job."
He hopes to open Temaki for soft launch at the end of June before officially opening in early July. Dupee has included himself on the rota for kitchen and front of house shifts when the restaurant opens due to gaps in the team.
"I'm not complaining as I'm so happy to be in the restaurant, but after a tough year it's not how us operators wanted to come back to life," he said.
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