How to solve the chef shortage

By Nikkie Sutton

- Last updated on GMT

Quick change: labour turnover among chefs is approximately 40% according to People 1st
Quick change: labour turnover among chefs is approximately 40% according to People 1st

Related tags Chef

International recruitment, early age intervention and maximising college opportunities are just three of the ways to ease the chef recruitment crisis, according to recruitment experts.

People 1st has revealed eight top tips that pubs can take note of when it comes to solving the shortage.

It said that while there are a myriad of factors contributing to the crisis, and with Brexit on the horizon, the pool of talent is set to shrink further but it believes the shortage can be solved if businesses act fast.

Engaging with a local college

Most employers need to establish links with their local colleges to ensure they are delivering relevant and quality hospitality provision.

They can offer practical support through sponsoring college restaurants, brasseries and coffee shops; helping to deliver masterclasses and providing quality work placements.

Offering an apprenticeship

Recent changes to the apprenticeship system in England have given businesses much greater flexibility in how they develop the skills and knowledge of apprentice chefs.

Understanding what makes existing chefs stay

Knowing what makes chefs tick is critical to keeping them happy. Talk to existing staff to find out why they stay and find out what they don’t like too.

Understanding what motivates them can help to reinforce those areas and ensure they are promoted in the recruitment process as well as reviewing any problem areas.

This information can be gathered through regular engagement surveys or through conversations with staff.

Catch-up session culture

Performance reviews are a valuable tool for managers but the way businesses are using them is changing, according to People 1st.

There is a clear move away from annual performance reviews towards more frequent, information conversations to ‘take the temperature’ of a team member.

This can help chefs feel valued and provides managers opportunities to address potential issues before they result in a staff member leaving.

This works even better when chefs can see how they are doing against a clear progression and development plan.

Management and leadership training for senior chefs

Chefs are usually promoted because of their culinary skills and many haven’t received the management and leadership development that would have been available to other roles in the industry.

Ensuring senior chefs have the skills to communicate, engage, support, develop and motivate their teams can have a major impact on retention.

Kitchen culture

Introducing a code of conduct to clearly spell out what is acceptable can help create the right culture in the kitchen but to be truly effective, it needs buy-in from kitchen staff themselves.

Chefs and those who interact with the kitchen can be involved in drawing it up and this can make them reflect on those behaviours and compare them with other workplace settings as well as making sure they feel ownership over its content.


Chefs are often working 60 to 70 hours a week and this is a huge factor in driving people out of the industry and is one of the most challenging areas to address, People 1st said.

Looking at whether rotas can be adapted to reduce the number of hours worked can help change this.

Looking at the flexibility of the contracts to meet different needs is another tip.

Improving the physical work environment

Improving a chef’s work environment is one of the easier factors to fix. Improving the comfort, convenience and aesthetic of the workplace can make it more pleasant and differentiate a pub from its competitors.

Examples include investing in better and brighter lighting, repairing floors, investing in uniforms, shoes, and renovating staff changing rooms and eating areas to make them more attractive, secure and hygienic. 

Related topics Chefs

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