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Why Chefs Don’t Want to Come Back to the Industry

As restaurants reopen, businesses are struggling to fill their vacancies, particularly in the back of house.  Chef jobs are in low demand, and restauranteurs do not recall there ever being such a shortage in chefs, while demand has increased exponentially.  The one million dollar question is why chefs don’t want to come back to the industry.

While the reasons are multifaceted, much rests on the job uncertainty, exacerbating conditions of Brexit, and concerns around health risks.  This leads employers to consider why the workforce does not want to come back to chef jobs, so that they can take steps to address the shortages.

Here are the reasons why chefs don’t want to come back to the industry.

Conditions of the Job

Prior to the pandemic, over 20,000 chefs were already leaving the profession every year.  This accounted for 10% of the UK hospitality workforce.  This was despite an unprecedented demand even before Covid or Brexit exacerbated the situation.

Workers cited long hours and high stress in chef jobs, combined with low pay and job flexibility, as reasons why they left the industry. There is also a stigma regarding kitchen culture, where yelling and even drug use are accepted practices.

Job Uncertainty

The job uncertainty that Covid-19 created has added fuel to the fire.  Chefs, for the most part, have not been able to work during the past fourteen months.  Many restaurants closed, and even those that remained open for takeout service required fewer chefs.  This has put chefs in the difficult position of finding alternative work during the pandemic.  

Chef jobs have never been particularly constant, with many restaurants going bust thanks to low profit margins and lots of competition.  However this crisis has highlighted the concerns workers have with job stability.

Health Risks

Covid forced many in the hospitality workforce to consider the health implications of Covid-19, and whether working was worth the risk.  Especially in early days when there was little understanding of how the virus spread and the associated health implications, many professionals were afraid to work.  Chef jobs were suddenly seen as risky, and those with underlying conditions, such as asthma and diabetes, left the industry.  Many may not return.

Brexit

Covid is not the only reason why chefs have left the industry.  Brexit played a huge role in the number of migrant workers available in the UK.  

Because working in a chef job can mean long hours and high temperatures for low pay, the restaurant industry has long been dependent on migrant workers.  There is a reliance on EU workers, and they made up between 25-38% of London’s hospitality workforce pre-Brexit.  

With travel restrictions still in place, and workers finding it difficult to follow migration rules, there are fewer EU workers available in the UK.

Conclusion on Why Chefs Don’t Want to Come Back to the Industry

While conditions in kitchens were already causing workers to leave the industry, further job uncertainty, health risks, and Brexit have combined to create historic openings in chef jobs.  As demand continues to increase for chefs, employers will need to address the reasons why chefs do not want to return to the industry.  

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