Chef Q&A: recruitment

With recruitment still among the biggest challenges for hospitality operators impacting on their business, three operators share strategies which are helping them attract team members

Ross Pike, Chef Director at Oakman Inns & Restaurants

The group, which focuses on Mediterranean and British food, currently has around 35 sites, with further growth planned. Each inn is individual with a personality that reflects the local area it serves.

Grow your own talent

“Labour is a big challenge for us, like for so many other operators, as there just isn’t enough good staff members coming through the recruitment pipeline at the moment.

Our Chef Academy, launched in December 2021, is helping with this and is going really strong. The academy, which encourages people with no chef experience to give cheffing a try and teaches them skills on a paid programme, has seen 68 people having gone through it so far.

The academy starts with a week-long skills programme at our training kitchen in Woburn and the recruits then continue their training with a week’s placement in our sites. We have seen people from a range of ages and backgrounds join us. It is something we need to continue with to help develop chefs for the business.”

Lewis Allington, Head of Food at St Austell Brewery

A family-owned company which has around 38 managed pubs. Lewis oversees the food offering, as well as 140 tenanted and leased pubs and a historic brewery, whose brands including Korev and Tribute.

Flexible foundations

“Staffing is one of our biggest challenges, with currently around 90 chefs short across the estate. We have few head chef and sous chef vacancies, but it is mainly line chefs, chefs coming into the industry and starting their career where we have the biggest challenge.

We are doing loads of things around recruitment, including offering apprenticeships and have a dedicated apprenticeships manager, we also work with catering colleges to recruit and are looking at four-day weeks for chef teams.

In July we also launched ‘Pub Flex’, Launching our new ‘Pub Flex’ scheme | Jobs & Careers | St Austell Family Group, our flexible career scheme, which allows people of all ages and levels of experience to book shifts on demand (with no minimum number of weekly or monthly hours needed to sign-up), with 100 front and back of house people on this initially.”

Neil Bell, Consultant Chef for pub and bar operators

Consultant chef for pub and bar operators, including Yorkshire-based pub group, Appetite for Life.

The balancing act

“Due to the pandemic people are after that increased flexibility in their work-life balance and one of the things I recently helped introduce with a bar operator was a four-day working week for chefs, which has helped to alleviate their recruitment challenges and got all their kitchens open seven days a week again.

We had to gather enough people originally to enable existing staff to get down to four days too. Because volume of staff has increased, but labour cost hasn’t, it has allowed them to do other things like operating a brunch menu, which has increased their retail opportunity and hasn’t really added any labour cost.

It is also worth looking at having multi-trained staff, such as front of house team members who can also help prepare dishes.”

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