Thomasina Miers and Mark Selby told BigHospitality the 27-strong Mexican restaurant brand was still reliant on European workers in London as too few British people were entering the catering industry.
“We’ve had seven to eight head chefs who’ve come in washing dishes literally not speaking English, we’ve taught them [the language] and developed them through our teams to be head chefs and we’ve trained some in area manager and area chef roles,” said Selby.
“We believe that that takes a five to six-year window and we’ve done that successfully with lots of British and European people. Particularly in London you are reliant on lots of European workers, so our slight worry is what happens if you’re only allowed to come for two years, how does that affect [training]? I don’t think that’s been answered yet.”
Miers added that though the hospitality industry still had an ‘image problem’ in the UK she was hopeful that perceptions were shifting.
“[It’s] changing a lot, partly through the street food revolution and the ability of young people to do young, sexy start-ups…[but]it’s still not got a great image, which is crazy when you think about job satisfaction and diversity of the skills you pick up.
“The problem is a lot of British people still don’t go in to the catering industry, and that’s why so many restaurants employ staff not just from Britain but all over the place who are willing to learn and work their way up.”
Selby said that in the last year and a half Wahaca has increased its ‘people’ team from two to five staff in an effort to improve recruitment.
“Every new person coming in to the business can have a long career [at Wahaca],” said Selby.
“Definitely in Britain we want to offer those opportunities to people, and it’s about making people realise that it is really attractive, and if we can nail that it shouldn’t be a problem.”
Watch out for BigHospitality’s full interview with the team next week.