Northern Ireland bar staff are working 13-hour shifts to deal with shortage of workers
Multiple 13-hour shifts are becoming the norm for bar and restaurant workers in Northern Ireland as staff shortages continue as Christmas approaches.
Part-time and full-time positions are available at a number of establishments across Belfast, but many are struggling to fill these roles after an already devastating year for the hospitality industry.
Carter Wood is Assistant General Manager at Ruby’s in Dundonald. The 23-year-old said he and his colleagues made five or six double teams each week – which last between 12 and 1 pm.
“You just have to get through it,” he said.
According to the manager, the problem is not just a lack of applicants, but a shortage of experienced candidates coming in contact.
“It’s just about trying to find the right people,” he said.
Despite this, many hotel roles encountered by Belfast Live said the experience was “preferred but not essential”, suggesting that some of the city’s establishments need help regardless of their expertise.
Hatfield House on Ormeau Road is just one of the best bars in Belfast calling for workers, with around 15 positions currently available.
General manager Richard Keenan, 32, said staff had been “through the bells” for the past few months.
He said: “In busy times in the hospitality business, it’s just about how many bodies you can get into.
“It’s really tight.”
Things are likely to get even more difficult after Halloween, as fewer Covid restrictions allow more movement in the bar.
This is just the start of what will undoubtedly be busy preparation until Christmas – and 12-hour shifts are already scheduled.
Richard added: “It’s just a little more anxiety in what has already been a pretty anxious year, you know?”
These shortages are not limited to Belfast. One in five hospitality workers in the UK have left the industry during the pandemic, with Covid and Brexit seen as two of the main causes of the problem.
And staff shortages across the country could last up to two years, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has warned.
But with work parties around the corner and many licensed punters at the bar, most establishments can’t afford to look that far.
Richard said: “We are lucky here, we have a very close-knit team and we are always successful. But it would be nice to see a few more hands here to make everyone’s life a little easier.”
Despite this, the managing director said it was certainly not all gloomy in the Belfast hotel scene at the moment – especially with dancing now allowed in bars and restaurants across Northern Ireland.
He said: “We are really happy to stop saying no. Over the past two years, you have often said “no” to your client. It’s nice to be able to say yes a little more. “
And while the hours can be long, the manager said the hospitality industry is still a great industry to work in right now.
Richard said: “It’s fun, it’s like a night out without going out – you actually get paid for your night out.
“We have great live music and a great atmosphere. Anyone who thinks hospitality is all night and long hours – it really isn’t.
“No two days are the same.”