Written on 21-Mar-2018
This year we took CJUK Live to Northern Restaurant & Bar at Manchester Central to discuss the increasing skills shortage we are facing in our kitchens.
For many years CJUK has championed a better way of working for chefs. We believe that it is possible to have a work life balance, and that it is this (in our opinion) that will help the industry turn around the skills shortage. We must make it an industry that people what to work in, rather than an industry that people ‘survive’ in for as long as possible.
We invited a panel of hospitality experts to help discuss how we can tackle the chronic chef shortage this industry is facing.
We think our MD Michelle Mellor summed everyone’s feelings up as she opened the event, “Our sector is fantastic, and we must protect it.” And that is why we were all there, to look at how we can future proof our industry, by looking at what needs to change now.
A common theme across the discussion was that recruitment is getting harder, and as a result staff retention must become a priority. Strong retention is something that must be driven from the top down by strong management and leadership. Which Adrian Ellis echoed and said that you must ‘Invest time and money in staff retention’.
Chef Mike Harrison Law said that the key was to look after your chefs and listen to them; their thoughts on everything from menus to rotas. This is something that was reiterated by the chefs in the audience, with one commenting that chefs ‘don’t leave bad jobs, they leave bad managers’.
Another theme with the chefs was that menus are getting too big as managers strive to cater to all, but as a result they are putting increasing pressure on already understaffed kitchens. Change has to come from management, to have the confidence to draw back a little and do simple and skilled really well.
Overall the common thread was that this change is something that needs to be driven by management. This isn’t about chefs ‘just getting on with it’. There also needs to be a shift in the perception of the hospitality industry, and as Tom Hadley from the REC said, this can’t just be a communications piece with a fancy recruitment video, the reality must match.
Essentially, chefs just want to be treated well, to be paid fairly for the job they do, and be respected and valued. This is perfectly reasonable in any other jobs, so why do we have to strive to make this happen for chefs?
It really does come down to what we have been saying, that there is a better way for chefs. Treating chefs fairly, with a positive working environment and a healthy work life balance is key.
We could keep going, but there was just too much that was discussed to squeeze in to a reasonably sized blog. We haven’t even got to apprentices, catering students, female chefs or Brexit. If you would like to hear the discussion you can watch the full event on our Facebook page, which has full, unedited footage, and please add to the discussion and leave a comment.