Highly successful restauranteur Luke Mangan has raised concerns over the future of the health of the Australian restaurant industry, due primarily to penalty rates and a shortage of local talent.
With his food empire currently estimated to be worth around $80 million, Mangan admits that 20% of his chefs and wait staff come from overseas and are here on 457 work visas. He would prefer to hire staff locally but says that it is because of a lack of dedication and willingness to put in the necessary hours to succeed in the industry that he has had to hire workers from overseas.
He told reporters, "In our age group, we just did anything, worked anywhere to get to where we wanted to go. Today I get apprentices' mums calling and saying about Little Jonny, 'you're working him 50 hours a week.' My mum and dad would drop me off at the train station and make darn sure that I worked 50 hours a week - work that out."
High penalty rates in Australia are also hurting the industry according to Mangan, as he admits that his Sydney restaurant Glass, along with many others around the country, closes on public holidays due to the exhorbitant wage costs.
A Sydney TAFE initiative that has been designed to encourage and foster the next generation of culinary talent in this country has high profile chefs taking part alongside Mangan. They include Peter Gilmore, Dan Hong and Mark Best who will be responsible for staging special classes at various TAFE campuses.
Mangan said, "We have a fantastic industry, but I do worry about the future if we can't get good people."