Wollongong: Stokes Lane Cafe owner closes on weekends, unable to hire chef

A NSW cafe owner has shared a gut-wrenching letter on social media after he was forced to close their door on weekends.

Stokes Lane Cafe in Wollongong has been on the hunt for a new weekend chef but after having no response to their job ads, the owner has made a hard call.

Owner Sam Dodd revealed in a heartbreaking Facebook post that the cafe would only open from Monday to Friday for the foreseeable future.

It comes as hospitality venues across the country are taking drastic measures to fill staff vacancies left by pandemic uncertainty and border closures that have locked out overseas workers.

The 36-year-old father of two shared the news with his loyal customers, saying it was the post “we hoped I didn’t have to write”.

“This is the post we hoped I didn’t have to write, but after weeks of a relentless hiring campaign we are still yet to source a cafe chef who can uphold the Stokes standard you’ve come to know and love,” Mr Dodd said.

“Our unsuccessful search has left us with no choice but to regretfully close our doors to weekend service.”

Mr Dodd assured customers that he had looked after weekend staff in finding new work opportunities and that no one had been left jobless as a result.

He thanked his customers for their ongoing support and asked for their patience until the business can get back on its feet.

“We hope you can understand and be patient with us while we endeavour to resume normal operation, your loyalty and support has made Stokes into the thriving business we know today, please hang in there with us,” he said.

Mr Dodd said he would be using the weekends to soak up time with his “growing too fast” family.

“While this has been an incredibly tough decision, my silver lining is to relish these weekends with my small and ‘growing too fast’ family,” he said.

“All of my weekend staff have found new work opportunities, all locally. No jobs have been lost because of this decision.”

The cafe will open for its last Sunday on October 23 before resuming strictly weekday trading hours for dine in and takeaway.

“It’s going to be a big weekend to go out on,” Mr Dodd said.

Devastated customers responded to the post on Facebook, sharing their support for the business.

“Far out – so tough to find staff – feel for you Sam!” local business Savvy Fitness wrote.

“An absolutely amazing family business who keep locals very happy no matter when they are open! All the best Sam,” another user wrote.

One user said staff shortages were the worst he had ever seen, with many chefs working multiple jobs.

“They all have multiple jobs already,” the user wrote.

“The staff shortages experienced by the hospitality industry at the moment are the worst I have ever seen.”

“It’s a common problem everywhere, same with tradies,” another said.

Other customers shared their love and told Mr Dodd to try to enjoy the family time.

“Best thing I ever did with my business was closing Saturdays,” one user said.

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