Restaurant group teams up with Greek agency to tackle UK chef shortage

By Sophie Witts contact

- Last updated on GMT

Olive Tree Brasserie teams up with Greek recruitment agency to tackle UK chef shortage

Related tags: Olive tree brasserie, European union

The founder of Greek restaurant chain Olive Tree Brasserie has begun working with a recruitment agency in Greece after struggling to hire UK chefs.

Dean Wilson, who runs three sites in the north of England, says he hopes the pilot scheme will help the group to expand while improving the skills of his existing staff.

Wilson began the partnership following a discussion at the Athens Street Food Festival in May 2017.

Only a small number of chefs have come to the UK so far, but more are set arrive ahead of plans for a fourth Olive Tree Brasserie site.

Though the group already runs training programmes for UK staff, Wilson told BigHospitality​ there were advantages to hiring Greek chefs to cook their native cuisine. 

“They've got the core knowledge on the background of the food, and can correct details and techniques used on the dishes,” says Wilson. "Forty per cent of our produce is sourced from Greece."

Impact on expansion

Olive Tree Brasserie launched in Lytham St Annes in 2007 and has since expanded to two further sites in Chester and Preston. A fourth site, in a currently unnamed location, is in the pipeline.

Wilson told BigHospitality​ in 2015​ that he was hoping to grow the brand in to a national chain, but speaking this month admitted that the shortage of staff had made expansion more difficult.

“[It’s] always a slight hindrance as you want to focus on the future and moving forward rather than worrying about current operations,” he says.

Brexit challenges

Despite being positive about the plans, Wilson admits he is unsure about the future of the recruitment scheme following the UK’s exit from the European Union in 2019.

“We are quite concerned about it,” he says. “Until it happens we won’t know exactly how hard it will be…but I think everyone’s a little bit worried.

“We are seeing the cost of imported produce increasing exponentially and the weak pound means that the wages of European workers who send money home to families are worth less.

“But the biggest concern is the block that uncertainty around Brexit could cause in the flow of talent between countries. Talented chefs may not be willing to uproot their lives and families and set up in the UK, when there is no guarantee that they will be able to stay here in two years’ time.”

He adds that Olive Tree Brasserie has also begun putting more emphasis on apprenticeships and retaining and developing existing staff within the business due to the uncertainty around Brexit.

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