John Wood, director of hospitality recruitment firm John Wood Consultancy, advises one reader how to go about finding and retaining a qualified sous chef without forking out huge advertising fees.
Problem: “We are the owners of a real ale pub and have recently expanded the business to include a fine dining restaurant, 'Millers Bar & Restaurant'.
We have a fantastic, if a little inexperienced Head Chef, who is producing fabulous food. However we seem totally unable to recruit a good Sous Chef, which is preventing us from advertising as we wouldn't be able to manage if we were full! Consequently our business is losing us money.
We have advertised in the local paper, on their local jobs webpage, and on various job boards – all to no avail. What are we doing wrong? We cannot afford to keep paying huge advertising fees. Do you have any suggestions as to where/how else we can recruit?” – Sally Hastewell, Director, Brewers Pride
Solution: This is quite a common problem that I come across in both recruitment and consultancy in all types of operations.
Hearing that you have exhausted most of the advertising avenues locally and that you are heading into your busiest season having to hold back on growing the business due to this position being vacant, I would suggest the following:
1. Use some free advertising websites that are available for chefs’ positions on the internet and advertise the position on your own website.
2. Use live forums that professionals and different catering sectors have set up, and mention that you have this vacancy.
3. Speak to your team and advertise a reward for anyone who introduces a successful candidate who passes his/her three month probation period. I have used this very successfully in hotels and restaurants in the past.
4. Because you are currently holding back on growing the business as this position is vacant, you should choose very soon from either the above options or recruiting someone through an agency on a “Temp to Perm” basis. This means that you will pay a slightly inflated casual rate for a candidate but you then have the option to take them on permanently afterwards for no recruitment fee.
5. Alternatively use a recruitment agent and agree a low flat fee for this position. This time of the year full time recruitment is quite lean and you should be able to negotiate a good rate.
6. I am all for developing existing staff and ensuring that people stay with you. Too many businesses concentrate on recruitment and do not think about development and retention enough. You need to have your "slightly inexperienced" chef ready to be able to train and develop the new Sous Chef when they do get him/her in to ensure they do not leave after six months. My pointers for this would be:
- Spend time with the Head Chef explaining the business side of the operation and going through the P&L.
- Work with the chef on liaising with suppliers to ensure the best possible price is being paid for all ingredients.
- Go through payroll and some time management ideas with the Head Chef so that maximum productivity levels are being achieved at all times of operation.
- Create photographic, costed recipes for all dishes, to manage food costs and consistency.
- Make sure he/she understands the demographics of your customers and that the food offering reflects this in both price and dishes offered.
When chefs are learning they will stay with you, and as long as they are being stretched and developed they will continue to enjoy it.
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