Hospitality is the fourth largest employer in the UK, and new jobs are continuously being created. Just last month, McDonald’s announced the creation of 8,000 jobs over the next three years - most of them for first-time workers and young people.
The British Hospitality Association’s Big Hospitality Conversation has so far generated 35,000 jobs for 16 to 24-year-olds, and in June, catering recruitment software provider Recruitive reported a 96.7 per cent increase in the number of jobs posted from May 2012 to May 2013, and an impressive 339 per cent in the 12 months to May.
Yet recruitment still comes on top of the list of challenges facing the hospitality industry.
Lee Redding, hospitality specialist at executive search firm BarrettClark Search & Selection, explains: “All hospitality companies are raising the bar and competing for the same people. At the same time the industry is exploding and there are not enough quality candidates to go round.”
The industry has traditionally suffered from being perceived as hard work with few rewards. Cooking shows such as MasterChef have helped raise the sector’s profile by making it look more glamorous, though stressful, and showcasing the passion that leads candidates to a professional cooking career.
At Westminster Kingsway College, the rise in applications for patisserie courses has been attributed to the popularity of TV shows like Great British Bake-Off.
“We are often hearing from our students that TV shows like the Great British Bake-Off and the Fabulous Baker Brothers have encouraged them to enter the patisserie and baking industry in the UK,” says Gary Hunter, head of hospitality and culinary arts at the college.
For Redding, the UK industry lags behind other countries in making hospitality an attractive career option. “When recruiting outside of the UK and from previously working in America there’s a real positive vibe from the public about the industry and hospitality professionals who are considered to be great achievers such as they should be.
“The UK needs to recreate this attitude through training and schooling as the hospitality industry offers an exceptional employment opportunity and a brilliant career,” he points out.
In order to make the sector and their company seem like an attractive place to work in, some businesses have decided to improve their web presence, with good results.
At Carluccio’s, senior recruitment manager Marcus Weedon explains the positive effect that modernising the website has had on the number of applications: “We are getting more applications coming through, which shows the website is making it more attractive. We’ve added an application stage on the site, which filters out a lot of people and we get to see more quality. Candidates also get a feel of what we’re about through all the questions they are asked in the application stage.”
At Côte, recruiters are complementing job adverts with a general PR effort to showcase career prospects at the firm. “Instead of doing generic recruitment, we’re doing a lot more PR about the business and recruitment opportunities, especially with our growth this year.
“We’re looking at attracting people through a more cohesive web presence, publishing case stories on people within the business, and focusing on different demographics. We want to show that there really is a career to be had, not just a job at a restaurant,” says Scott Williamson, recruitment director.
While junior positions and first-jobber apprenticeships are relatively easy to fill, it seems the biggest shortage lies from middle management upwards.
Carluccio’s Weedon says: “For team members there are always quite a few applications and they can be filled within the week. But when you look at chefs de partie or head waiters there always seems to be a shortage.”
Among the variety of jobs that form the hospitality sector, chefs are undeniably the toughest commodity to find. Lack of proper training, unsociable hours and a general perception of cooking as a difficult career all contribute to the shortage.
In order to solve this problem, companies are now starting to offer comprehensive - and paid - chef training programmes. Exclusive Hotels and Venues just launched its Chef Academy - a two-year paid apprenticeship for catering college students, sous-chefs and chefs already working with the firm.
The Northcote Group is also in the process of launching its own programme for chefs de partie and sous-chefs. Covering the financial aspects of the role, such as stock costs and PNLs, as well as knife skills, bread making, butchery and fishmongery, the 12-month structured programme is paid around £22k for chefs de partie and £30k to £35k for sous-chefs.
“It’s a structured 12-month training programme with a good salary in order to attract them in the first place. At the end they get a position somewhere in a two Michelin-starred restaurant whether here or in Portugal, and a decent set of knives. We’ve tried to put together an attractive package,” says Jane Wilkinson, HR manager at the Northcote Group.
The company is currently figuring out how to advertise the programme through social media and a short promotional video, targeting experienced chefs looking for skills and career development, including management training. And although no target has been set, Wilkinson says the firm hopes to have between two and five chefs enrol.
One interesting way to approach recruitment is through networking - something restaurant brands have been using more and more. When it comes to senior positions that require a certain level of experience, creating long-term relationships in the industry could be a great way to tackle the skills shortage.
The Jamie Oliver restaurant group started organising networking events last year, inviting chefs from different brands to attend an evening of drinks, canapés and food talks by Oliver himself.
“Half of the point is to inspire them to come and work for us, so it’s about building relationship with these people so that when they do move on they have us in mind, but half of it was also about working closer together,” Stacy O’Hagan, the group’s people and development director, tells BigHospitality.
Carluccio’s just started doing a similar thing, with a first chef networking event hosted last week and another one specific to managers taking place this week. Though it is still early to get clear results, the chef event led to a few trials that same week, and Weedon is optimistic about the prospects of this approach.
“We’re finding that a lot of people that come to the open days are not necessarily getting engaged with what we can offer. At the networking events they won’t be doing interviews, but they will be able to get a taste of our products.
“It’s an open invitation so we send an email shot through the media, advertise it through social media and are working through an agency as well. We’re not only targeting the people that are looking now, but also those that could look at making a career move in the future. It’s a short and long-term approach to recruitment,” he says.
Côte has also been hosting open nights instead of days, with great success. “People come in, have a chat, a glass of wine and some nibbles, it’s very informal and that has produced phenomenal success for us. From those evenings we’ve hired seven managers and quite a lot of junior level staff,” explains Williamson.
These initiatives fit into a long-term approach that, according to Redding, could change the hospitality recruitment game.
“Hospitality companies should take a longer view on their recruitment process and stop using multiple agencies who race to get a candidate CV submitted from the 25 per cent pool of people replying to adverts, but rather take time to engage in a more strategic, researched and successful process which will uncover those quality candidates who are doing a great job - talent,” he says.
And although it might be unrealistic to organise industry-wide networking events of this type, competition can be overcome for the good of the sector. Since its first networking event, the Jamie Oliver group has forged relationships with other groups, such as Wagamama, and now exchanges CVs with them.
“That’s quite new because it is so competitive, but if you meet someone with good skills, but who’s not quite right for you, you can pick up the phone and call Gordon Ramsey and say you’ve got a candidate that would be suited for them - it is sort of unheard of in this industry.
“Jamie couldn’t believe this could work but it’s actually worked great because we know how tough it is to recruit so we’re helping each other out,” O’Hagan says.
Are you looking for a job in hospitality? Or perhaps you want to hire a new employee for a key position within your company? our jobs website jobs.bighospitality.co.uk specialises in vacancies across restaurants, hotels, bars, pubs and clubs.