Chef shortage: the industry reacts

By Emma Eversham

- Last updated on GMT

How can we ensure kitchens remain fully-staffed?
How can we ensure kitchens remain fully-staffed?

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The challenge of successfully recruiting and retaining staff in the hospitality industry is not one that has just suddenly appeared in the last few months. 

Restaurant owners and head chefs have struggled for years to find suitable chefs and then hold onto them. 

However, the problem has certainly escalated this year, with even the chef-patrons of multi Michelin-starred restaurants and pubs desperately turning to agencies and Twitter to put out impassioned pleas for staff. 

According to workforce development charity People 1st, 42 per cent of chef vacancies are considered hard-to-fill and it's not going to get any easier unless action is taken. The charity, which warned of a productivity crisis last month because of such high staff turnover, estimates that another 11,000 chefs will be needed by 2020 to serve the industry's needs. 

High staff turnover in hospitality causing a productivity crisis

Yesterday Daniel Clifford, chef-patron of two Michelin-starred Midsummer House, warned that the industry could collapse​ if it didn't come together and tackle the problem head on. 

"If this continues we’ll end up like Paris where the top restaurants are charging £90 to £100 for a starter and £140 to £160 for a main course because they have to pay such high bills for staff," he said.  

"If the industry doesn’t do something about it there’s going to be a demise of good places and we are going to lose the industry we love." 

Clifford's warning provoked an overwhelming reaction from across the industry. Which we've attempted to summarise below. 

"At the moment we are slightly becoming victims of our own successes," said Edinburgh-based Mark Greenaway who, like so many others is looking for chefs and front-of-house staff. 

"We are looking to expand our teams because business is better than ever however there are simply not enough skilled staff available to fill these positions. 

"So moving forward we all need to start looking at schools and colleges and where we can help to encourage and develop the next generation of chefs so that by the time they leave education they are industry ready to a certain degree." 

On Twitter​ there was agreement from many - including Daniel Hatton, group executive chef of Hattons of Royal Tunbridge Wells and Elizabeth Allen, head chef of Pidgin London - with Clifford's stance.

Others had different opinions:

Some, like John Herd of Eagle & Child in Ramsbottom, suggested where the problem lied:

While others reminded us that the issue isn't limited to the kitchen or the UK.

While there is no clear-cut solution to solving the problem, steps taken by some to address it, like Sat Bains, may be helping.

As with many of his counterparts, the chef, who last month said his eponymous restaurant would be switching to a four-day week​ from November with staff remaining on the same salary, advertised for staff via Twitter and had a better than expected response.

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