An increase in dine-in business post COVID-19 and continued demand for takeaway is creating 60 new jobs at Guzman Y Gomez stores in the Illawarra. Many more positions are likely within 12 months when a new drive-thru restaurant opens.
Wollongong and Shellharbour stores have contributed to a record breaking employment spree nationally for the food chain with 197 new employees hired in February and another 200 by the end of March.
Illawarra franchisees Paul O'Neill, Rosa O'Neill and Gabi Antelmi said the two local outlets had just put on 15 people and plan to employ 10 to 15 more in mostly casual positions. They have full-time, part-time and casual roles for cooks, restaurant managers, kitchen hands and sales and food preparation staff.
Mr O'Neill said Guzman Y Gomez had been fortunate during the last 12 months.
"We have actually experienced really high growth across the whole brand. It has been better in regional areas."
Mr O'Neill said many people who used to commute to Sydney had continued to work from home in the Illawarra and that had helped drive local demand.
"We never closed during COVID-19," he said.
"We were able to keep going with our takeaway, app orders and delivery partners which meant we could stay open during the whole of COVID and reach out to some customers who had not come to us before. We are experiencing high growth."
Mr O'Neill said because the Illawarra eateries did better than most during COVID they were not eligible for JobKeeper. They managed to keep everyone employed but as business continues to grow they are having trouble finding people to fill new positions.
"We were about $300 off a new record last week in Wollongong. At the moment our existing staff are having to work extended hours. We need quite a few crew."
Mr O'Neill said the greatest difficulty was finding cooks.
"We used to have a lot of uni students from overseas and rural communities come to us with those skills."
Mr O'Neill thinks JobKeeper ending this week could result in more people applying for jobs. He said Guzman Y Gomez would be advertising for more positions soon.
"We have some exciting things coming up. We'll be having a drive-thru down here within the next 12 months."
Guzman Y Gomez is looking at several sites.
The Wollongong and Shellharbour eateries are also getting significant business from the NSW Government's Dine and Discover vouchers.
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