It will probably not surprise you to hear that we are living through a somewhat strange time, but I am not talking about the dreaded ‘C word’ on most people’s lips… the ‘C word’ I want to talk about today is one that has a role unlike any other time I can remember.
Ever since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, I think we can all agree that hospitality is one of the industries that has been hit the hardest, and the earliest and therefore the longest.
Because of early closures, and long-term furlough schemes, the hospitality industry has greatly suffered losses in all areas, but maybe one area where we will feel it the most is in the kitchens across the UK!
The ‘C word’ we NEED to talk about today is CHEFS!
Yes there is one thing we can be sure of from the past couple of years and the effect that the pandemic has had on the hospitality industry, it is that chefs are in greater demand than they have ever been, which has completely changed the landscape for employment, and retention of this skilled trade!
Because of a very apparent skills shortage currently for the CHEF positions, the tables have certainly turned from an employment perspective, in favour of those used to working long hours, split shifts, I’m just sucking it up when the job requires much more from them than other professions.
It is a basic economics principle that when demand far outweighs supply, there is a big shift in power, enabling chefs to lay down more demands, not just to do with their salary and finances, but also to do with their working conditions and hours.
I have recently been discussing this topic with a good friend of mine who used to be a chef, but will openly share that they left the industry because of the long hours, insufficient pay, and less than desirable working hours and conditions.
We know of more than one establishment who have seriously struggled to re-recruit in their kitchen, due to the high demand put in place by people attending interviews. Either they are skilled and able with a list of demands, or they sit in interviews and talk a good game, however when it comes to practically delivering, they either don’t show up, or don’t live up to the picture that they have painted.
We all know that being a chef is a skilled trade, and there is only so far you can bluff your way through, and it soon becomes apparent those who can deliver in the kitchen, and those who really can’t!
I’m curious if you’re reading this, have you struggled to recruit in your kitchen, or to retain the team you currently have?
The main reason for this blog and the question above, is reiterating a pointI have discussed previously on my blog, around the importance of valuing your staff, upscaling them, and creating a work environment that is desirable, and a place they want to be.
When you build a great workplace, and a strong team, with the right conditions in place, not only do you get a great result in the business, but also it is far easier to attract great talent, and to retain those already working with you.
Which leads me onto the importance of continual personal development for all team members, or at least the opportunity for them to decide if that is what they want to do. Are you providing in-house training, or bringing in external trainers to help your team to develop both personally and professionally.
When it comes to training that you can offer your team, this is not just in business and practical skills, never underestimate the importance of making them feel valued, by helping them with soft skills, and finding out how they personally want to develop and progress.
There has been extensive research into drivers and motivators for those in employment, and interestingly enough financial reward is one of the lowest motivators available to you as an employer. Think about other ways in which you can respect, honour and support those already in your team, and also how you can create an environment the others are queueing up to join.
It is also worth considering talking directly to your team about where the skills gaps, maybe, not just for their own personal development, but also to help you with your recruitment, and knowing which positions they feel need filling.
It is quite feasible that as an employer who is not hands-on in the kitchen, you may believe that a certain role needs to be hired for, when in reality, the lack of the additional person or people has led to other team members diversifying their role, in order to best manage the situation with the current team.
Speaking to the team will help them to feel included, considered as part of a team rather than just employees. They may also be able to assist in the hiring process, as they sit in positions with a level of understanding of the skills required, and the gaps in the kitchen team right now.
Remember also that it is this team that will have to gel and work with anyone you choose to take on, so having to be involved in the process can only be a good thing.
If you’re lucky enough to have skilled chefs, don’t sit back and think how lucky you are, but be sure to invest in those people in your team, as they could quite easily leave for better conditions, or a more interesting offer.
Everyone would love to think that their business and team are the very best, but disruptions like the coronavirus pandemic have had people thinking more about what they want from life, where they want to work and what they want to do, both personally and professionally.
The last thing I want to hear is that anyone I know has found themselves in this position, and so I wanted to write this blog as a way to remind everyone the importance of investing in your people, and let you know that my door is open if you need to talk about this further.
One thing that surprisingly came up high on the motivators for those employed was actually gratitude. As crazy as it may sound, sometimes simply appreciating the team, and vocalising that publicly, can change the whole nature of the work environment, and improve and increase retention rates of team members.
If you’re lucky enough to have a great team, invest in them and make it a place that is the most desirable option, so they don’t consider their options at this time where they have the most input to their employment status. And by doing this you will also find it easier to attract more great talent into your kitchen.
If you are in the less fortunate position of having lost team members, look at what you can do to attract a great talent, and all the way through the engagement or employment process, find out about those individuals as they join your business so that you can best serve them, after all the food lead hospitality business is nothing if it doesn’t have a kitchen team to deliver the goods!