New report addresses UK's chef and kitchen staff shortage

01/12/2017 - 09:58
A shortage of chefs and kitchen staff in the UK hospitality industry is the subject of a new report released from employment consultancy firm, People 1st.

The Chef Shortage: A Solvable Crisis? study combined new and existing data with the views of chefs and stakeholders from 45 companies across the sector along with students, industry commentators and recruitment agencies.

The report estimated that at least 11,000 additional chefs will be needed over the next five years to meet growing demand and to replace existing chefs.

It calculated that there were 28,390 chef students in 2015/16 - nearly three times as many as are needed to meet those projections but found that many of these were dropping out and not finishing courses.

An unnamed student was quoted as saying: “Most people give up halfway... I think, on our course, there are only two of us that are still in from level 1. The others dropped out.”

The report also found that labour turnover among chefs is approximately 40%, which means that nearly 94,000 chefs are changing employment each year. Some 19,000 of these – about 20% - are leaving the profession entirely.

Companies that took part in the report included Casual Dining Goup, Compass Group, Harbour and Jones, Ei Group, JD Wetherspoon, TGI Fridays and Wahaca.

They were asked questions on the causes and extent of the shortage and asked what needed to be done to tackle it.

The six ‘major’ findings indentified as contributing to the shortage were-

  • Increased demand for chefs
  • The changing nature of chef roles
  • A shrinking labour pool
  • Too few chef apprentices in the sector
  • Too few chef students entering and staying in the sector
  • Chef turnover and chefs leaving the profession

The main proposals to combat the problem were-

  • An integrated careers campaign
  • Early age interventions
  • Maximising the opportunities from colleges
  • Creating a quality workplace
  • Job and operational re-engineering
  • Recruiting internationally

“The dilemma for many businesses is that they are operating on wafer thin margins, with rising food and staff costs and a highly competitive market. But without competitive salaries, realistic hours, tangible development and a good working environment, we will not effectively tackle the shortage.” said Martin-Christian Kent the report’s author and executive director at People 1st.

“The way forward requires joined-up thinking with action at a business level, across the sector as a whole and by government.

“It also demands a holistic approach that doesn’t just focus on a careers campaign, but also on why we continue to lose talented chefs. There are no silver bullets, it just requires co-ordinated action from employers, sector bodies, providers and government.”

Anonymous quotes from chefs featured in the report included-

“It's the restaurants that are the issue. Restaurants need to rethink and modernise their working environments or they are going to the kill the chance for future generations to discover a wonderful industry,” and “I could work somewhere where I’d sit at a desk all day and earn twice the wage, or more, than I currently earn.”

Other findings from the report included that a quarter of hospitality businesses in the UK had vacancies in 2015, 22% of which were for chefs.

When it comes to reasons for hard-to-fill vacancies, 64% said that they couldn’t find applicants with the required skills.  

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