By Vanessa Cavasinni, editor Australian Hotelier

Ask any hotel operator in the industry who has had to do any recruiting for kitchen staff in the last two years, and they will all say the same thing – it’s one of the most difficult issues they’re facing in any aspect of operations.

The issue is quite simple – the demand for chefs is largely outstripping supply. Jim Irwin, acting director (vocational education training) for William Angliss Institute (WAI), says the problem is two-fold: people are eating out more than they ever have in Australia, while less people are choosing to go into cookery as a career. While enrolment numbers at WAI are at record numbers, Irwin says that people are just not staying in cookery long term.

“So many [cooks] are finding their way out of the industry, and that means that we’ve just got this amazing requirement to keep replacing people. We’re doing our best but there really aren’t enough young Australians choosing to come into cookery as a career,” he explains.

And the main reason for this are the long, unsociable hours – particularly unappealing for younger people.

“It’s a fairly anti-social career opportunity,” Irwin states. “They’re not able to keep up their social life, their school mates are all off doing other things and working a Monday to Friday job, and the kids in cooking have a totally different set of hours and expectations. The hours are tough and if you’re going to do it, you’ve got to love it so much that that passion overcomes all of those perceived negatives.”

The demand side of the equation is intensified by the increasing behaviour of Australians to eat out, with the average now being two to three times a week. This is thanks to both an increase in immigration from cultures where eating out is the norm, and thanks to the behavioural trend of consumers spending their disposable income on smaller ‘luxuries’ like dining, rather than bigger purchases like a holiday.

With a formula that adds up to tough times in kitchen recruitment, Justine Baker, COO of Solotel, affirms that the issue has even had an impact for the pub group, one of Sydney’s largest.

“It’s at all levels of the kitchen. We’ve seen it previously with the tightening of the labour market, where it’s been very much at the bottom end of chef de partie, or lower at the cook level. But recently it’s tightened at all levels.”

This is an extract from a feature published in the September issue of Australian Hotelier. The rest of the feature can be viewed online here.

The Shout Team

The leading online news service for Australia's beer, wine, spirits and hospitality industries.

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