What Chefs Want
Published 11 September 2019
Chef recruitment is at crisis point in the UK and a struggle for hospitality businesses nearly everywhere I travel on work. As demand outstrips supply pay levels are on the increase and restaurateurs talk of promoting people beyond their skill level to retain chefs. This all makes for a competitive recruitment market, where chefs can walk out of a job into another almost instantly.
At Think Hospitality we wanted to get under the skin of the sector and understand what chefs want - what makes them happy, what encourages them to leave and what attracts them to a new employer. We surveyed hundreds of chefs & interviewed a dozen senior leaders in partnership with The Staff Canteen.
Here are a few of the headlines and most pertinent points from the report;
The Push Factors
The report found that 48% of chefs are always looking for a new job, while 39% of executive/ head chefs wanted to eventually do something outside the food industry, but why? The main factor that encouraged chefs to seek another career opportunity was poor working environment. They classified this as long hours, split shifts and unpaid overtime. There seems to be an active disconnect between the recruiting chefs who grew up at a time where people would bust a gut working all the hours in kitchens, to the new recruits who expect fair and equitable working conditions. The kudos of having a Michelin star or being a five star hotel certainly doesn’t change expectations of recruits, who still don’t want to work 18 hours a day.
The Pull Factor
Matching the findings above, the most important factor when considering the suitability of a new position is the working hours, followed closely by pay. Another key factor is being seen as skilled professionals in their workplace and respected for the role they do, this linked to having creative freedom. Flying in the face of the growing trend toward central production chefs really want to express creativity through menu design. A drive towards entrepreneurship is strong in the chef community with 64% of chefs want to eventually run their own business, the focus of their future is to open a restaurant of their own.
The challenge here is that employers aren’t just fighting off competitors for chefs, but they’re also fighting to keep their employees from eventually setting up their own business and potentially becoming a competitor. The opportunity may be to partner with them on their first venture to support their ambitions but keep them in the fold.
96% of chefs gain inspiration from social media and online blogs, with social media being the main way of identifying the latest and greatest trends. The preferred channel was Instagram, yet we found few hospitality companies engaging chefs this way. The opportunity here is to be where chefs are.
A full insight deck from this research will be distributed to GRIF Society members. Register for GRIF Society here.
James Hacon is Managing Director of Think Hospitality who are food and beverage visionaries, innovators & strategists, working with multi-site brands, investors and developers across the world as consultants and venture partners.