Gastro entrepreneur Joëlle Apter closed the lion in Hausen am Albis ZH for two months.
Sarah FrattaroliDeputy Head of Economics
Working just four days instead of five or ten weeks of vacation instead of five – what sounds like a dream is finding its way into more and more restaurants and hotels. For example at the Löwen inn in Hausen am Albis ZH, where owner Joëlle Apter (46) sent all employees on paid vacation for two months.
The Zermatt luxury hotel Cervo follows a similar model. Some of the employees have ten weeks of “free time” a year. This includes holidays, public holidays and compensation. Employees must obtain these in the shoulder season when the hotel is closed. “As a result, the employees get a year-round contract instead of a seasonal job,” explains hotel director Benjamin Dietsche (32).
Small businesses can’t keep up
The 25 Hours hotel group successfully switched to the four-day week last year. “Since then, we’ve received 30 percent more applications,” says Director Lukas Meier (33) happily. “We now have the luxury of choosing between the applications again.”
The industry is plagued by a shortage of skilled workers. Innovative work models tailored to the young Generation Z offer a way out. But not for everyone, warns Ruedi Bartel (65), President of the cantonal industry association Gastro Thurgau. “Small businesses don’t have a chance to offer that.”
He runs the Gasthof Krone in Balterswil TG with seven employees. He can’t take more than five weeks vacation. He would inevitably have to close the restaurant if the staff were on vacation so often – and forego income. Bartel cannot afford a four-day week either. The Thurgau gastro president knows how he is doing with various smaller businesses in the country.
Lukas Meier from the 25 Hours Hotels also admits that personnel costs have increased as a result of the new working model. Its staff works 9½ hours four days a week – and thus has half a working day for free compared to the previous model. “It’s a long-term investment that’s worth it for us.”
Out for Rössli and Hirschen – because there are no offspring
The other side of the coin: For rural pubs like Ruedi Bartel, it will be even more difficult to find staff. “They have more lucrative offers elsewhere,” says Bartel. “Some companies even have to close because of this.”
This includes the Rössli in Lengwil-Oberhofen TG. Landlord Roland König (49) threw down the beg last autumn. “The batteries are empty,” he writes on his website. “With today’s workforce, it is simply no longer possible to manage the peak operations,” said the host at the time to the “Thurgauer Zeitung”.
Other pubs, especially in rural areas, are closing because they cannot find a successor. This is what happened with the deer in Gloten near Sirnach TG. The innkeepers, Cäcilia and Ruedi Grob-Koster, turned off the lights in the village inn for the last time in more than three decades at the end of November. Since then it has remained dark in the Hirschen, nobody wants to take over the restaurant.
Operator Joëlle Apter: “I’m expressing my appreciation for employees”(02:23)
Drops in the bucket
“More and more small villages in the country no longer have restaurants,” regrets Ruedi Bartel. “As a result, club life also suffers. They no longer have a place to meet after rehearsal or training.”
Even in urban regions, the shortage of skilled workers continues to have a firm grip on the industry. The salad shop chain Not Guilty with three stores in the city of Zurich, for example, recently put up an information board in its branch on Stauffacher: The opening times are being restricted – due to a lack of staff.
There is no end in sight to the shortage of skilled workers in the catering trade – and other sectors – due to demographic change. The national umbrella organization Gastrosuisse has launched a five-point plan to secure the future. The industry association wants to invest in the next generation by means of career changer programs, for example. But such measures are no more than a drop in the bucket.