It probably won’t have escaped your attention that the restaurant industry is struggling, particularly when it comes to attracting and keeping staff, a situation that doesn’t look likely to improve after Brexit.
To address this issue of late, there has been a trend for individual restaurants and hotels to launch their own apprenticeship schemes, to encourage young, or otherwise, people with no qualifications or experience to gain both through full time jobs with perhaps one day a week in a local college.
There is solid logic behind these schemes, attract workers at the beginning of their career, train them with the the skills and in the methods you need and encourage loyalty so that they will remain with the company for many years.
Some companies can also receive government subsidies for training.
While larger companies and groups have been running apprenticeship schemes for years, most very successfully, the restaurant industry has largely relied on Catering Colleges to attract, train and prepare the next generation of chefs.
There has always the issue of whether the colleges are producing adequately trained staff, but the answer to that was encouraging industry chefs to become more involved with colleges, plus no amount of college training can ever hope to achieve what on the job experience can provide.
But the problem is not the amount of available places for those wishing to embark on a career in catering, most catering colleges are struggling to fill their courses, rather it has been attracting sufficient numbers of applicants.
The truth is catering is no longer an attractive career proposition. Long, unsociable hours, in hot, pressurised conditions for little more than minimum wage, in a precarious industry.
At this stage it would be easy to blame the ‘greedy’ restaurant owners and operators but the fact is most restaurants work with wafer thin margins and can’t afford to pay more, most restauranteurs I know pay their staff as much as is possible, (there are always exceptions) sometimes it still isn’t enough. I have been on both sides of that predicament.
Whats the answer?
Honestly I don’t know, but people being willing to pay more when eating out would be a big help. However I don’t believe taking students away from our colleges, causing them to struggle further, is a sustainable solution. Chefs and restaurants working more closely in tandem with colleges would be a better step.
I am lucky enough at the moment to be working with the Basque Culinary Centre, who’s board includes 2 and 3 star Michelin Chefs, who host regular masterclasses by these chefs and this week is hosting the Worlds top 50 Chefs. Of course all of that takes funding.
This week I noticed the launch of a Professional Masterchef Competition by a local Hotel, a brilliant idea and concept I thought.
However on further investigation the terms of the competition required the last 16 competitors to each pay £250 (to cover costs) with the eventual prize a Stage (work experience) with a ‘top European Chef’.
So the competitors paid a collective £4000 to fund their own competition in the hope of winning a week of working for someone for free.
We still have a long way to go.