Almost two thirds (61%) of specialist recruitment agencies will be unable to provide enough chefs to restaurants and other hospitality firms over Christmas due to a skill shortage, according to an industry trade body.
The Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) surveyed hospitality recruitment agencies in November and found that an overwhelming 93% said there are not enough trained chefs in the UK to meet demand.
Looking ahead, the REC has warned that the shortage is likely to get worse due to a combination of poor staff retention in the hospitality industry, and potential changes to immigration policies which would make it harder for EU chefs to fill vacancies in the UK.
Kevin Green, chief executive of the REC, said: “As we approach the festive season the shortage of chefs is causing real headaches for restaurants. Training and progression needs to be improved so that more people are encouraged to become chefs. That’s a longer term fix, but there’s an immediate skills crisis which needs to be addressed. Any restrictions on access to chefs from the EU, such as a salary threshold for work visas, will only exacerbate the problem.
“Without a supply of chefs to meet growing demand, restaurants, bars and hotels will have to pay more for their staff and it’s likely that these costs will be passed on to the customer. We may even see restaurants close their doors if they can’t remain competitive and profitable.”
Nine in ten (89%) reported that demand for chefs has increased over the last three years as the UK restaurants has boomed, and a similar number (83%) expect demand to continue over the next 12 months.
According to official figures, there are now more than 250,000 chefs in the UK, a 36% rise since 2011. Business consultancy People 1st found that 42% are migrant workers, with 18% coming from other EU countries.
Martin-Christian Kent, executive director at People 1st added: “Chefs continue to be a key recruitment challenge for many hospitality businesses. Currently, 42 per cent of chef vacancies are considered hard-to-fill. However, last year alone 14,000 chef students left college after completing their qualification which is more than enough to fill the 11,000 we need in the next eight years.