The number of restaurants across the UK is moving upwards, but the shortage of chefs stays a prevalent issue. The industry has been suffering for a while now, with more and more restaurant owners and insiders urging to pay attention to the warning signs. We caught up with Richard Kirkwood, the Head Chef at Wright Brothers, London’s seafood wholesale and restaurant chain, to find out reasons that fuel the shortage of chefs.
“You’ll need hard work and dedication as in any other profession, but if you are self-doubting your skills and talent, then it might not be the right place for you,” says Richard as we sit in Wright Brother’s South Kensington location. He has previously worked at Le Caprice, the Ivy, and Coq D’Argent with the experience amounting to 21 years.
The hospitality industry is traditionally associated with unreasonable pay, exhausting shifts, harsh working environment, but the landscape is changing. Not to fall short on staff and recruit new Talent, the companies in the food industry are changing their approach.
Richard stresses there’s no place for bullying in the kitchen, “It’s about camaraderie. Some of your team members might be nervous, putting additional pressure on them won’t help. The head chef should be a social worker: confident, managerial, but not a bully. The restaurant industry is thriving in London, whilst there’s a noticeable shortage of Talent, thus, treating your staff disrespectfully is not a choice. You will simply not be able to retain your team.”
The Wright Brothers is ahead of these changes. As Senior People and Talent Manager Jade Court told us, it is important to create a happy working environment for your staff.
“Tailored benefits, fair hours and a happy workplace are all great places to start. Doing things together always motivates the team. We organise trips, run competitions and group training that allow people to spend time together and enjoy each other’s company.”
If you have just started your culinary endeavour or moved jobs, allow time to settle in. “It’s the biggest mistake newbies make – they don’t let themselves settle in. Before you start actively participating in the process and giving suggestions, observe how people work, what is the work distribution, etc. Spending time to understand the workflow is essential,” adds Richard.
The Wright Brothers restaurants are operating since 2005 “to make food accessible”. The menu across different locations is updated to keep up with the customer needs. Currently, Richard heads up creation of a new concept that will target Millennials and the younger generation: “It’s new in terms of surroundings and energy around it. The food is just a part of the game – the whole set up, atmosphere, and energy of your place make up for an outstanding experience.”
“There’s a way to move up in this industry because it is slightly understaffed. It is a very exciting time for the hospitality industry with lots of opportunities emerging on a daily basis.”
Top tips for aspiring chefs:
- Understand the workflow, allow time to settle in;
- Never compromise on the product and its quality;
- Experiment with flavours and presentations;
- Be organised, it is a vocation.