There were more job vacancies in catering than any other private-sector industry, according to the latest government figures.
Out of 72,380 private-sector vacancies recorded in December, almost one in five - 13,710 - were in the food and beverage services, the government revealed yesterday.
The retail sector had the next most vacancies, with 8,310, according to the Census and Statistics Department. Import-export, professional and business services and the arts, entertainment and recreation sectors also had thousands of job openings.
Across the private sector, vacancies had increased 11 per cent year on year.
Simon Wong Ka-wo, president of the Federation of Restaurants and Related Trades, said the catering industry faced obstacles in recruiting both high and low paid workers.
Since the introduction of the minimum wage in 2011, many of the lower paid employees, such as cleaners and waiters, had been tempted to take jobs that were similarly remunerated but less physically demanding.
Many lower paid catering staff had become security guards, he said, while many higher paid staff had "gone to the mainland to look for better jobs".
"Even the middle to high management level employees are in great demand," said Wong.
As a result, many restaurants were being forced to promote lower level staff to management positions - even when they did not have the relevant experience. He said the shortfall was likely only to get greater as demand for the service was growing.
"Save for a sudden economic downturn or a rapid decrease in the number of tourists, there will certainly be more and more restaurants opening, and a higher demand in labour in this sector."
Given this, the real number of vacancies could be as much as double the government's figure. He called on the government to provide managerial training to restaurant staff.
Across the private sector employment rose 2.4 per cent in December. Increases were highest in construction, accommodation services and the information and communications sectors. Decreases occurred in manufacturing and wholesale.