Training Young Chefs is key for UK pubs, shows Q4 Hospitality Employment Index

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More than 8,000 fewer pubs in the UK today than there were in 2008, according to the latest Hospitality Employment Index (HEI), produced by Caterer.com and People 1st. The number of chefs being recruited by UK pubs has increased by 23% since 2008, but the HEI has found that chefs were the most difficult roles to fill within pubs, with 59% of employees struggling to recruit.

There are more than 8,000 fewer pubs in the UK today than there were in 2008, according to worrying figures from the latest Hospitality Employment Index (HEI) - the quarterly report of the employment situation in the hospitality sector, produced by Caterer.com and People 1st - which was released today.

But not all pubs are struggling. Those that serve food are adapting better than others - in fact, they are thriving. 48% of all sales from Mitchells & Butlers pubs came from food, and for Marston’s and Greene King the figure was 44% and 38% respectively.

The number of chefs being recruited by UK pubs has increased by 23% since 2008. But this is still not enough to keep up with demand: the HEI found that chefs were the most difficult roles to fill within pubs with hard-to-fill vacancies, with 59% of employers struggling to recruit people for these jobs. If recruitment can’t plug the gap by itself, then pubs must look at other avenues. Where are tomorrow’s chefs going to come from? Could training be the solution to the shortage of chefs in UK pubs?

Neil Pattison, Sales Director at Caterer.com commented: “Faced with changing customer preferences and low supermarket prices for alcohol, many pubs are focusing on bringing people back by offering good food. Pubs that have embraced a food-led offering are becoming extremely successful, but this success relies upon recruiting quality chefs. The challenge is finding them.

“The industry chef skills shortage is not going away and employers need to first look at encouraging promising talent to join them, then training them to develop their skills on the job.”

The shortage of chefs in the UK is a historical problem and not just for the pub sector. Data from the HEI has consistently found chefs to be one of the skilled roles that is hardest to recruit for across the country.

Brian Wisdom, chief executive at People 1st, said: “There are insufficient numbers of full-time chef students moving through the college system, and the funding cuts colleges face mean that some institutions are removing chef provision from the curriculum altogether.

“We’re now focusing on activities to attract more people into the industry by promoting career opportunities through initiatives like the Hospitality Guild’s ‘Act NOW! on Apprenticeships’ campaign. It might take some time, but initiatives like this are an important step forward in helping provide a more sustainable way to attract and recruit skilled chefs into the industry.”

There are also numerous industry initiatives already in place that provide a constant pipeline of potential candidates, ready to be trained up by hospitality employers. Springboard’s FutureChef programme, for example, looks for promising talent among 12-16 year olds, with more than 7,000 promising young people taking part every year. It has nurtured some great talent: Luke Thomas, Britain’s youngest head chef, came through the scheme. Similar schemes exist for other age groups, such as Nestlé’s Toque d’Or for college students, and the BHA’s Young Chef Young Waiter, for anyone under 25.

More information on industry initiatives and training can be found in the ‘Chef Development’ section of the latest Hospitality Employment Index. Download the full HEI here: http://response.caterer.com/content/hospitality-employment-index-register

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Notes to editors

  • UK pubs are closing, but those serving food are thriving. 48% of all sales from Mitchells & Butlers pubs came from food. For Marston’s and Greene King the figures were 44% and 38% respectively.
  • 59% of pubs with hard-to-fill vacancies are struggling to recruit chefs.
  • Thousands of young people are coming through programmes designed to foster young talent, but employers are not taking full advantage of this.
  • Up-to-date information about UK chef shortages can be found in the Hospitality Employment Index, which you can download here: http://response.caterer.com/content/hospitality-employment-index-register

For further information about hospitality job recruitment, please visit:
http://www.caterer.com

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Matt Fletcher
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