Six in ten (61 per cent) specialist recruitment agencies will be unable to provide enough chefs to restaurants and other hospitality firms over Christmas due to a skill shortage, according to the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC).
The REC surveyed hospitality recruitment agencies in November. Eighty-nine per cent reported that demand for chefs has increased over the last three years as the UK restaurant industry has boomed.
Ninety-three per cent of agencies surveyed said there are not enough trained chefs in the UK to meet demand. More than eight in ten (83 per cent) expect demand for chefs to continue to increase over the next 12 months.
Looking ahead, the REC has warned that the shortage is likely to get worse due to a combination of poor staff retention in the hospitality industry, and potential changes to immigration policies which would make it harder for EU chefs to fill vacancies in the UK.
According to official figures, there are now more than 250,000 chefs in the UK, a 36 per cent rise since 2011.
Business consultancy People 1st have found that 42 per cent of chefs in the UK are migrant workers, with 18 per cent of that contingent coming from other EU countries.
REC Chief Executive Kevin Green says:
“As we approach the festive season the shortage of chefs is causing real headaches for restaurants. Training and progression needs to be improved so that more people are encouraged to become chefs. That’s a longer term fix, but there’s an immediate skills crisis which needs to be addressed. Any restrictions on access to chefs from the EU, such as a salary threshold for work visas, will only exacerbate the problem.
“Without a supply of chefs to meet growing demand, restaurants, bars and hotels will have to pay more for their staff and it’s likely that these costs will be passed on to the customer. We may even see restaurants close their doors if they can’t remain competitive and profitable.”
Martin-Christian Kent, Executive Director at People 1st says:
“Chefs continue to be a key recruitment challenge for many hospitality businesses. Currently, 42 per cent of chef vacancies are considered hard-to-fill. However, last year alone 14,000 chef students left college after completing their qualification which is more than enough to fill the 11,000 we need in the next eight years.
“Our research is starting to show two possible explanations – students’ expectations don’t match the reality of working in the industry, and students are entering the industry, but they’re not staying. It’s critical that we develop strategies to encourage progression and development of chefs in order to aid retention and enable businesses to operate effectively and remain competitive.”
Katie Mellor, Director of Sales &Operations at specialist hospitality recruitment business CJUK, says:
“We know that a huge number of chefs leave the industry after just a short time because they’ve had a bad experience. To encourage more chefs to stay in work, restaurants need to provide better flexibility and pay. One of the key reasons a chef will choose to work via an agency is so they get paid for every hour they work, rather than working unpaid overtime in a permanent role. Restaurants are already struggling to keep their kitchens staffed – chefs need more flexibility and better conditions if this is to improve.”