Only 1 in 3 applicants for top London chef jobs is British


Government urged to open immigration to address dire skills shortage in one of UK’s fastest growing sectors and to help increase appeal of hospitality as a career.

New data from hospitality recruitment agency The Change Group shows that only one in three applicants for top chef positions in London is British. There are even fewer UK candidates at “chef de partie” level (the entry level to supervising a kitchen section) where only one in five applicants is a UK national. British candidates are most strongly represented at “head chef” level, where one in two applicants is from the UK.

Over half of all applicants for jobs as skilled chefs in London are from the European Union (53%). Migrants from non-EU countries account for only 14% of people registered with Change for work. This figure includes nationals from Commonwealth countries such as Australia, Canada and South Africa.

This nationality data has been sourced from a sample of 1200 skilled chef candidates from the Change database. In addition, Change conducted research with 250 candidates over the summer that supported the trends shown in the data: only 10% were non-EU passport holders.

Hospitality is one of the UK’s fastest growing sectors: based on current Office of National Statistics figures, positions in the hospitality industry have grown by almost five per cent (4.8%) compared to less than two per cent (1.9%) growth in UK jobs overall

However, the industry continues to face a significant skills shortage, and figures released in July by CV-Library show a 30 per cent drop in the number of candidates applying for each position.

The impact of the skills shortage on top London restaurants is enormous, and prompted Duck and Waffle executive chef Dan Doherty recently to tweet “Right. Nobody is allowed to open any more restaurants until the chef situation is sorted. Ok?”

Hospitality is rewarding – but image needs boosting

When asked how the hospitality industry could help to attract more people to become chefs in order to fill a growing number of roles, chefs who took part in the survey pointed to investment in intern/work experience programmes (39%) and building a positive image for careers in hospitality (35%) as the key requirements.

The research also shows that there should be scope for improving the pipeline of Britons given that being a chef is very much a vocation. Over half (54%) said they have a passion for hospitality and one in three say they became a chef because they love working with food (34%). Less than one in five applicants said they “fell” into the career by accident.

However, a culture of long hours, a lack of structured training and unclear career paths have driven many to look for work elsewhere seeking better work/life balance (24 per cent) or career progression (22 per cent).

Whilst hospitality is often viewed as one of the sectors which is already very open to migrant workers, Change director, Craig Allen believes a more fluid global workforce is key to driving skills, attracting talent and resolving the current recruitment crisis:

“These figures are very worrying as they not only point to the fact that there is not enough British talent applying for chef careers and the number of skilled applicants from the EU isn’t enough to meet the demand. We need to attract more skilled migrants from other countries to bridge the gap. To do this, we need to change immigration policy.”

“There is no doubt that the long term solution is to boost the number of Britons wanting a career as a chef. However, we need a short term fix as restaurants in London are struggling to find skilled chefs at all levels with demand simply outweighing supply.

“By reviewing immigration laws relating to skilled migrants, we could encourage freer movement of chef talent which in turn would support growth in the UK hospitality industry. This could also have a direct impact on income from UK tourism which is vital to the economy as highlighted recently by David Cameron.

“Increasing the chef talent pool by opening up our borders will enable the hospitality industry to cope with current recruitment demands while addressing the bigger issue of how to attract more UK workers into chef careers.”