Independent restaurants are forced to offer hefty sign-up bonuses of £ 1,000 or more to chefs and other kitchen staff as the shortage of skilled workers tightens during the peak holiday season.
Small businesses such as Angie’s and D Grande, two restaurants in Chiswick, west London, the Coniston Hotel in Skipton and Galeta, a bakery in Hackney, east London, offer registration fees of between £ 500 and £ 1,000. Bigger rivals are offering even more: Rookies at Harry’s Bar, the private club in Mayfair owned by hospitality entrepreneur Richard Caring, will receive £ 2,000, while the Côte bistro chain is also swinging £ 2,000.
Job search site Indeed said less than 1% of hospitality job postings currently mention a registration fee, but the number of industry positions offering such a bonus has quintupled (443% ) since the end of May.
“This is a new phenomenon for the hospitality industry that shows no signs of slowing down, despite Omicron, as we head into the Christmas season, ”said a spokesperson for Indeed.
Steven Whibley, Galeta’s director of operations, said he was offering a connection bonus of £ 1,000 after three months on the job in addition to a salary of up to £ 40,000 to secure a bakery chef. The company is also offering bonuses of £ 500 for lower positions such as party leaders and drivers, positions which are also proving difficult to fill.
Whibley said, “We currently have 20 vacancies and our full team would be 60, so it’s about a third missing. We fill that up with overtime and agency staff when we can. The problem has been around since the summer, but it has worsened as the business has grown with the opening of the economy. We are busier and busier, and the staffing needs are growing, and we have lost staff because other people are offering more.
Whibley said the company had already increased base salary by 10% and offered the bonus, but would still struggle to recruit staff. “It doesn’t look like they’re here.”
Angie Steele, the owner of Angie’s in Chiswick, said she was offering a £ 1,000 bonus for chef roles as she faced the prospect of closing two days a week, ending the service of the dinner and firing the service staff as she struggled to replace three of her. six chefs who are about to leave the company.
She said that even with the bonus, the restaurant only attracted two applications, neither of which showed up for their interview.
“Two years ago if a chef left I would put an ad and get four or five resumes and we would have gone to [kitchen] tests the next day and I would have a choice. Now there are no more CVs and no one comes through the door. It is quite extraordinary. “
She said Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic had had a ‘huge impact’ on the UK hotel industry, with staff returning home to mainland Europe when restaurants were forced to close and not return to the UK .
Steele said she was forced to offer a login bonus because so many other restaurants were doing it in the battle for staff. “It’s not a great vibe,” she said, with rumors that some restaurants are offering customers free food in exchange for the recommendation of staff from elsewhere.