British Food Fortnight

Chef-Retention: Your head-start to tackling the Chef Shortage

With Chefs evaporating like milk, we thought we’d finish British Food Fortnight by trying to make headway in this on-going tale of hospitality’s Chef-shortage.

We think it’s good to bear in mind that it’s not that a career as a Chef is unappealing, quite the opposite – with the rising in celebrity Chefs, the industry has grown massively over the last 10 years and so there are more restaurants/bars serving food than ever before.

But, let’s add this knowledge to the other statistics or, ingredients – if you will – in our Chef-shortage stew (perhaps a tasteless stew due to no Chefs being around to make a nice one…):

At 4:40pm on 4th October 2019, we did a simple job search for ‘Chef’ jobs in the UK. What was the result? 32,589 vacancies… I think we can all agree that that’s a lot. And that’s just from one platform! In addition to this, 20,000 chefs in UK hospitality are leaving the industry all together each year.

No this is not our version of a Halloween fright-fest… but it’s just as scary!

I hear you scream (presumably dressed in your hand-made but still awesome Halloween costume), how can we possibly tackle this? Well, we’ll tell you:

Get them while they’re young!!

Inspiring young people to fall in love with the hospitality industry does not end at a single work placement and a pat on the back. The best way to do this is to build real, strong relationships with school, colleges and other youth-led organisations in the local area.

What does this relationship look like? It looks like you knowing how much of an impact you need to make and so you offer up an afternoon of one of your Chefs quarterly to go and give talks, meet with students, do mini-workshops or give them an engaging and exciting tour and tasting session in your hotel’s kitchen.

It looks like the sponsorship of a college’s on-site, student-run restaurant, including a fun team-night-out there every now and then to show what it really means to be part of a kitchen team in an exciting, local hotel/restaurant.

It looks like making the most of the Apprenticeship Levy by offering Apprenticeship programmes within your kitchen, and not paying the bare minimum because you value them and want them to feel it!

Who else is there?

Well, on the other end of the scale, we need to get rid of any stigma around what a Chef looks like (don’t worry – you can keep the apron). Let’s think outside of the box (/pan), because disregarding Chefs based on that ‘norm’ (granted, this doesn’t happen on the scale that it used to), is disregarding multiple pools of spectacular candidates who will bring new and exciting ideas to the chopping board.

What else can be done?

The most common reason for Chefs leaving their career is hours and shift pattern. At Kew Green Hotels we aim to lead the way in abolishing split-shifts (because what on earth is someone supposed to do with a few hours in the middle of the day). We aim to employ more Chefs on shorter hours –this won’t massively impact on salary cost, as they’ll be working fewer hours; but it will massively impact on reducing the cost of re-hiring or using temp-agencies when people leave due to a seemingly avoidable reason… simply put – now that we have this knowledge, why on earth would we not do something to improve it?

On to our next point

Now, you may well be sitting there thinking ‘we already do this, what else?’ or ‘we don’t have a problem, clearly you guys are getting something wrong’ OR, in fact ‘why on earth are Kew Green sharing their knowledge on how to get Chefs… we’re the competitors so they’ve done the work for us!’. Well. Our next point is dropping any serious rivalry and remembering that we’re in this industry not because it pays well(!), but because we love it and genuinely care for its success. Therefore we should be working together to keep it alive and keep it growing – sharing best-practice and joining together to change the negative stigma and make it the exciting, flexible and rewarding career we all know it is. At the end of the day, most of our kitchens are open 24/7 so why can we not shake it up a bit, change the shift structures and offer more of a work-life balance.

No this won’t happen overnight, but hopefully, we’ve given you a head-start.

If you’re interested in sharing best practice, or if you would like to kick-off your career as a Chef, please don’t hesitate to get in touch by emailing Charley on