London restaurant introduces £1k 'golden hello' to address ‘toxic’ chef shortage

By Sophie Witts contact

- Last updated on GMT

Gauthier Soho tackles chef shortage with £1k 'Golden Hello'

Related tags: Chef, London

London restaurant Gauthier Soho has introduced a £1,000 ‘golden hello’ for new recruits, plus up to another £1,000 in monthly expenses, to tackle what chef-patron Alexis Gauthier says is the ‘toxic’ shortage of chefs in the capital.

The money will be paid to staff of all levels who commit themselves to working at the restaurant after completing a trial period.

The staff package, created in response to a lack of chefs coming through the restaurant kitchen’s doors, also includes private health insurance, a pension fund, and access to a research and development (R&D) budget of around £37,000 a year.

The monthly R&D fund starts at £250 for a commis chef and chef de partie, rising to £500-£1,000 for head chefs and even higher for the restaurant manager and sommelier. Staff are free to use the budget how they wish to sample other restaurants, patisseries and bakeries, and can accumulate the money to pay for trips abroad.

So far this year, chefs have used the budget to eat at The Ledbury, in Notting Hill, and next month a sommelier and patissier are flying to New York to eat at Eleven Madison Park, which topped the World’s 50 Best Restaurant list this year.

Gauthier told BigHospitality​ the cost is around 1% of the fine dining restaurant’s £2.8m yearly turnover, and is tax-free for staff.

“Working in London and being on a chef de partie salary is difficult, many of my chefs pay £6-700 a month for rent,” says Gauthier, who believes the hospitality industry needs to offer more financial incentives to attract staff in the current post-Brexit period.

“In such a competitive market it is vital that we are aware of what’s happening in the industry. I need to show them as a employer that they don’t need to worry about finances.”

'There is a lot of money in hospitality'

He claims that after 20 years in London he has never seen restaurants face so much pressure to find staff.

“The customers haven’t stopped coming to the restaurant because of Brexit, but the staff definitely have.

“I can’t put an advert in a French magazine and get 15 CVs from young chefs desperate to come to London [anymore]. The pound is very weak; it’s not attractive to leave your €2,000 a month job in Paris to earn £1,600 a month in London.

“There are a lot more restaurants and head chefs now, but fewer commis or de partie on the market.”

Gauthier Soho has introduced a permanent vegan tasting menu

Gauthier, who puts calorie counts on his menus and introduced a permanent vegan tasting menu​ ​to Gauthier Soho ​last year, says that restaurateurs need to be ‘creative as employers’ to convince people already living in London that they can meet the cost of living working in hospitality.

“There is a lot of money in this industry, it’s not the Premier League, but we need to show that the money is there to make the offer more exciting to people. No one can ever say that money won’t excite people.”

Despite the tough outlook, he believes the situation will improve in the next few years.

“I don’t think we should worry too much about the future as the British are very pragmatic,” says Gauthier.

“I think what [the Government] wants to do is find chefs from afar and bring them here on a two-year visa, so the future will not be as troublesome as it is now.

“We are in a toxic period at the moment, but the future may be brighter.”

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