Britain's National Chef Shortage and Why Beacon has the Answer By Michael Joslin - Beacon Design

Our industry is in the shit! In the weeds and dans le merde, however you want to put it we are in trouble and its not because our 'mise en place' isn't done. It's no secret either, Britain knows it has a national staffing crisis when it comes to chefs and with only long term solutions being suggested by industry professionals the future doesn't appear to be changing for the better any time soon. What was once a problem only country pubs in the sticks faced is now something that literally every kitchen type, size and food style is facing. Michelin star venues in the city, contract caters, education, healthcare and the humble British pub both independent and chain owned, we are all experiencing a chef shortage.

“The chef crisis is getting to the point where practically every restaurant in the UK is short of staff. Every decent chef I know is looking for staff; they have taken to Twitter to literally beg for chefs to get in touch. This includes top chefs like Tom Kerridge and Simon Rogan. It’s affecting everyone. we are going to lose the industry we love” Daniel Clifford - Midsummer House

There are a number of contributing factors as to why there is a shortage of good chefs and many of these issues are widely known and often reported on. Wannabe TV chefs, ridiculous agency fees, education standards, long working hours, and not forgetting business costs vs money a customer is willing to pay for a meal all have made an impact on chef shortages. Some of these points have fairly obvious, if a little difficult to action fixes and over a long period of time these fixes may work. But is anybody actually coming up with a fix that can be implemented right now?

“People think they’re going to get famous cooking, but there’s nothing glamorous about it, nothing. Kitchens are not great working environments. I’m straight with people. I will teach you everything I can, but … the boys get here at 7.30am and finish at midnight.” Gary Usher - Sticky Walnut

Many young ambitious wannabe chefs want to cook because they have seen their idols on TV and believe that they too may one day be famous, open their own restaurant, write a cook book and become the next Gordon Ramsay. We all know that this just simply isn't the case. The food Gods do not smile on all of us the same way they do on Jamie Oliver and this has led to many young chefs dropping out of professional cooking almost as quickly as they entered the hardcore industry we all know and love.

“From November we will operate a four-day week [with staff earning the same salary as five days]. It’s massively risky as I will lose money, but it’s an investment to attract the good guys and girls who are out there but also want to enjoy life. Ultimately, the industry needs to adapt. You cannot accept the next generation of chefs to work 90‑hour weeks like we did. The gastronomic scene won’t survive if we ask them to.” Sat Bains - Restaurant Sat Bains

It's not just day dreaming, young, disillusioned cooks that are a problem, agency fees have not helped the issue either. Rather than put themselves out there, chefs are now turning to agencies more and more to find them jobs, Linked In and other social media channels are rife with agency consultants trying to poach your team and offer them more only to charge a business a huge premium for the placement of a successful candidate. Michelin starred Le Gavroche has no problem filling vacancies, but is doing so with applicants from around the EU. Michel Roux Jr believes that British chefs are, instead, opting for the short-term perks of agency work.

“Young English chefs no longer knock on a door, begging for a job, saying I’ll work for a day free. They go to an agency, which six months later says, ‘Do you fancy moving here, for £100 a month more?’ Agencies are fuelling this crisis.” Michel Roux Jr - Le Gavroche

As if this wasn't all bad enough the customer; those necessary evils that are supposedly always right, they are making our lives hell too. They want to sit down to eat a meal, have it freshly and skillfully prepared, and want change from £15, which will quite often include a beer or refillable glass of sugar filled rubbish. The quick service restaurant has seen such an uplift that it is putting a strain on the rest of the industry and with de-skilled labour being the thing that large operators seem to go for 51% of catering colleges have seen enrolments drop. With so few real students wanting a real food education, funding is being pulled out of the already hard up institutes and catering colleges that the industry relies on. All this is happening now and in an industry which, by 2020, will need a predicted 11,000 new chefs. While the industry mulls over solutions, and seems to come up with very little Beacon Design has had a look at what it can do to help, the answer is right under very chefs's the equipment you work with.

“The chef shortage is an on-going crisis and that’s why I opened the Hix Academy in Weymouth last year. Catering colleges are not what they once were. They don’t teach students to innovate or work under pressure, and we can’t just sit back and wait for staff to come to us. We have to go out to find and train them.” Mark Hix - Hix Restaurants

We all know from watching science fiction movies that one day robots and machines will take over our world, we can joke about it and we can say that this is years away but the fact is that no it is not. We can no longer afford to do everything by hand, we cannot pay a KP, commis chef or chef de partie to stand there slowly peeling veg, stirring pots and washing dishes. We need to look at how we can be more efficient, more productive and more cost effective. We know how to do that with the produce we buy, we need to be resourceful and adapt this attitude to our workflow and methods of getting tasks done, quicker and cheaper. We need to let machines be the extra chefs in the kitchen we so desperately need.

Beacon Design is a company who employs chefs and works for chefs; so we are not in the business of putting chefs out of jobs by handing their jobs over to a robot or machine that can make it or cook it better, faster or cheaper. Quite the opposite, with the monotonous and remedial tasks taken care of by your equipment, senior chefs can now put their commis chefs to work on something that they will find more interesting and more satisfying. This will enable you to keep your staff for longer and help you to educate them, which if you don't think is your responsibility then stop reading now. Keeping staff happy is the key to stopping them from being poached by rival companies and having time to educate them is not only satisfying to you and your business but will also help the skills deficit due to catering colleges having a lack of funding and a lack of new enrolments. This we are sure is something all chefs can relate to.

I can relate to you, before I designed kitchens I owned and operated them, and I know I would have given my left arm to know back then about the gadgets and kit that I know about now, it would have helped me and the team out so much

Other benefits of updating the equipment you work with can and will be, reduced energy and water bills, reduced food waste, increased consistency and an improved hygiene, health and safety record. All of this can easily be achieved without compromising the quality and standards that you aspire to maintain, in fact it will aid you in reaching these goals.

So I should imagine you are thinking, what is the catch and what does it cost. Well simply put there is no catch, you just need to be open minded and realise that there are faster, easier ways to do things and equipment better than a 6 burner stove and a basic stick blender. As for cost a new modern way of working in your kitchen will often cost less than the financial reward you will benefit from straight away. With the latest financing options that are available there may not even be a need to spend big up front, keeping your cash in your business.

If you are not convinced I will leave you with this little gem. How many of you have spent hours bashing off a ladle in a chinois trying to pass a stock? Maybe you dropped the solids back into the clear liquid and had to start again, maybe you rushed it and didn't pass as much of that expensive stock as you would have liked and maybe you even broke a chinois or a few ladles doing it? Or what about making fruit or vegetable puree's, soups and coulis? Take a look at this and know that we can get you a FREE trial with us on this bad boy.

Here is another great product, the Frima, sister company to Rational, this proves that machines can save you time, effort and energy, ultimately, they are the extra chefs you need.

We would love to show you some of the other items that we know can help you and your team out, we host regular demos and can put most of our equipment in on free trial. We would love to meet you so please take advantage and have us in your kitchen for a quick look at how you are already working, we will carry out a free no obligation feasibility study and show you exactly how much money you can save and how much more productive you can be. Visit our website or call for details.

Or Contact

Michael Joslin - Business Development Director

07932690030 |

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