Buckets of cash: Up to $40/hour to deliver chicken, sign-up bonuses up to $5000

The ongoing shortage of hospitality workers in Aotearoa is creating tasty job opportunities, with attractive remuneration and cash incentives to lure workers.

Current adverts also show that bartenders and wait staff can now earn up to $30 an hour, with one company in Nelson adding a $5000 sign-up bonus, and a restaurant in Auckland offering $1000 up front.

Restaurant Brands, the business that operates the New Zealand outlets of KFC, Pizza Hut and Carl’s Jr, was advertising for delivery drivers across the country, saying “KFC and Pizza Hut deliveries are exploding”.

Payment for a contract worker was up to $40 per hour, with a guaranteed minimum of $10 per delivery. A $200 cash bonus was also on offer in Wellington.

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Flynn Drummond, general manager of Action Centre, an entertainment complex in Nelson, is currently offering a $5,000 sign-up bonus and up to $29 an hour for a duty manager with barista skills.

The cash incentive has seen the CVs roll in, he said.

“I’ve had interest from across the country and, importantly, from good candidates. Hospitality was traditionally seen as a stepping stone, but more people are seeing it as a career and if you want to attract those people, who you can train up more too, then you have to reimburse accordingly.”


Restaurants, bars and cafes are helping each other out as the staffing shortage continues to upset rosters. Even friends and family are helping out. (Video first published August 5, 2022)

Drummond thinks the staffing crisis will gradually cool.

“Back in September it was so bad that I would have offered even more cash up front but still haven’t been able to find a good person. I was even thinking I would have to supply accommodation.”

Drummond had investigated using an agency to recruit overseas workers.

“People who come here to work in the industry tend to be well experienced. That stream completely dried up since the pandemic, but they’re gradually coming back and hopefully in a few more months we will all be in a better staffing position again.”

Between 14 March 2022 and 12 January 2023 Immigration New Zealand received 46,210 applications for a working holiday visa. Of those, 43,145 were approved.

Andiamo, Herne Bay, Auckland, is offering a $1000 sign-on incentive to bartenders.


Andiamo, Herne Bay, Auckland, is offering a $1000 sign-on incentive to bartenders.

Andiamo Restaurant in Herne Bay, Auckland, is currently offering $30 for bartenders plus a $1000 cash sign-on incentive, along with a paid day off on your birthday, meals and drinks, training and various discounts.

Kieran Turnbull, general manager of Nourish Group, which operates Andiamo, said the company had used incentives for some time.

“We have used sign-on incentives for the last 18 months, as we navigated a thinning employment pool during the Covid-related border restrictions. Instead of paying a recruitment agency fee, we like to see this go straight into the pocket of the people we employ.”

While sign-on cash incentives did attract staff, he did not see it becoming an industry standard.

“We have seen good use of sign-on incentives, especially with foreign staff, who can use it to help with immigration and relocation costs. It seems a lot of other operators are also doing it, but we don’t see it becoming a norm. As the industry finds its equilibrium with talent, and the ability to get back to uninterrupted trade, we should see a continued focus on wider benefits and opportunities to attract and retain staff over one-off incentives.”

Career development was more likely to retain staff than one-off bonuses, he said.

“Over the past few years, we have invested a lot in recruitment, training and development. Not only does this further their career opportunities, but as an employer, we can retain staff for longer, which is crucial in dealing with ongoing industry staff shortages.”

There have been pay increases across the hospitality industry in the last year, recent Trade Me figures show. In the hospitality and tourism sector, the average salary was up 9% year-on-year to a new high of $58,994.

The national average advertised salary reached a new all-time high of $67,562 in the last quarter of 2022, said Trade Me jobs spokesperson, Patrick Cairns.

“There’s no denying it’s still a competitive market for employers, but with applications on the rise across the board, our data shows it’s a great time to be looking for talent. For those businesses that have attempted to hire over the past couple of years but had little success, our numbers show it might be worth trying again in 2023.”

It's a competitive market for employers, said Patrick Cairns, TradeMe jobs spokesperson.


It’s a competitive market for employers, said Patrick Cairns, TradeMe jobs spokesperson.

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