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The chef shortage: A solvable crisis? New People 1st report urges joined-up approach

29 November 2017

Few hospitality businesses in the UK have been untouched by the difficulties of recruiting the right staff to work in their kitchens.  The chef shortage continues to be a fundamental and high-profile challenge for the sector, and the issue is now having a real impact on business strategy and the way restaurants and food businesses of all types operate. 

Projections suggest that at least 11,000 additional chefs will be needed over the next five years to meet growing demand and to replace existing chefs.

At the same time, however, there were 28,390 chef students in 2015/16 - nearly three times as many chef students as are needed to meet the current projections of chefs needed by 2022. So if we have so many students studying on full-time chef programmes, why do we still have such a chronic chef shortage?

Labour turnover among chefs is approximately 40%, which means that nearly 94,000 chefs are changing employment each year. Some 19,000 of these – about 20% - are leaving the profession entirely.

The shortage also risks spiralling into an increasingly vicious circle - unfilled chef vacancies mean that existing chefs are working longer hours, which is further fuelling labour turnover. Meanwhile, Brexit threatens to make the situation even worse.

To take a fresh look at this challenge, People 1st have undertaken research which combines new and existing data with the views of head chefs and key businesses across the sector (45 organisations), industry commentators, students, learning providers and recruitment agencies, to answer four key questions.

  • What is the extent of the chef shortage?
  • What is causing the shortage?
  • What’s the impact of the shortage?
  • What needs to be done to address the shortage?

The report identifies six major factors contributing to the shortage:

  • Increased demand for chefs
  • The changing nature of chef roles
  • A shrinking labour pool
  • Too few chef apprentices in the sector
  • Too few chef students entering and staying in the sector
  • Chef turnover and chefs leaving the profession

And proposes a combination of the following solutions to address the shortage:

  • An integrated careers campaign
  • Early age interventions
  • Maximising the opportunities from colleges
  • Creating a quality workplace
  • Job and operational re-engineering
  • Recruiting internationally

“The dilemma for many businesses is that they are operating on wafer thin margins, with rising food and staff costs and a highly competitive market. But without competitive salaries, realistic hours, tangible development and a good working environment, we will not effectively tackle the shortage.” said Martin-Christian Kent, the report’s author and executive director at People 1st.

“The way forward requires joined-up thinking with action at a business level, across the sector as a whole and by government. It also demands a holistic approach that doesn’t just focus on a careers campaign, but also on why we continue to lose talented chefs. There are no silver bullets, it just requires co-ordinated action from employers, sector bodies, providers and government.”

To view the full report visit: www.people1st.co.uk/chef-shortage 

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