Chefs Pay and Benefits a Problem in Ireland?

It’s acknowledged that there is a severe shortage of chefs in Ireland right now. Not just right now, it’s been ongoing for a several years already and employers are really feeling the pain. The jobs are there, but the chefs are not. The job boards are full of employers advertising these jobs and, for the most part, after their campaigns have expired they still have that gaping vacancy they started out with, they’ll be a few hundred euro lighter and they’ll have lost precious time. Then they call us, or someone like us,
for a quick fix. The bad news is that aside from “payroll”chef agencies there isn’t much in the way of quick fixes out there, payroll chef agencies are indeed ideal for quick fixes but that’s where it ends. They’ll get extra hands in your kitchen faster than anyone or anything else, however they will cost and they’ll go on costing as long as you’re using them. Nothing wrong with that, that’s what they’re there for and many of them do a great job too. They will though be very unlikely to provide you with a long term chef solution i.e. One that you don’t have to pay for over and over again.

NEWSFLASH: Chefs Decide What Salary They’ll Move Job for, Not You!

When we’re approached to help a catering or hospitality employer one of the first questions we’ll ask them is whether they’ve made efforts of their own to fill their chef vacancy and if so what were they. In the majority of cases they’ll answer that they’ve “already advertised on a job board and got nowhere.” It’s a familiar story in a market for chefs that’s extremely short on the supply side while demand rages out of control. Our next question is usually to ask at what price they advertised the job, i.e. what salary were they offering and what other benefits, if any, were in the package? Let’s assume, for a moment, that the position they’re aching to fill is Chef De Partie (this is easily the hardest to fill position at the time of writing). More often than not our potential client will quote us a figure in the range of €24,000 – €27,000 before asking us, often incredulously, what we mean by “other benefits.” We’ll come back to benefits in a while but let’s first focus on the salary figures quoted and how employers are arriving at those figures. There’s actually very little to it, almost to a man (or a woman) they’ll answer that that’s the “going rate” at which point we’ll attempt to break it to them, as gently as possible, that it isn’t (the going rate*); next we’ll ask them how they arrived at that figure. The answer seldom differs from some variation of: “that’s around what all the other ads on the job boards are offering for Chef De Partie.” It now falls to us to explain that all those Chef De Partie job rates they’re seeing on the job boards constitute nothing more than a giant wish list, a wish list comprised of ads placed by other employers using the same method as them. Unfortunately not many are being granted their wishes. We’re fortunate enough to own one of the best chef jobs advertising platforms in the business but, effective and all as it is, it can’t buck the market. Our chef jobs board positions clients jobs to be seen by their target market, i.e. chefs, but it can’t entice those chefs to make a career decision that isn’t tempting or perhaps not even in their own best interests.

Are You Buying or Selling? Answer: You Should be Doing Both

This way of thinking is quite remarkable, at least it is if you step back and assess the market. There’s hardly an employer in the country who isn’t painfully aware this chef shortage is both crippling and showing no sign of improvement. The number of chefs who want to work, who are not working, is tiny; so the best, if not the only, chance of hiring someone is to make them want to leave where they’re working and come to work for you. Is the “going rate” something that’s going to entice someone, at least someone they’d want to hire, away from where they’re already working? In the overwhelming majority of cases the answer is no, it won’t. So how can employers improve their hit ratio in such a market? By remembering that the market for chefs is like any other market. When a product, commodity or service is in both high demand and short supply what happens? That’s right, the price rises. Yet for some reason too many employers in the Irish hospitality sector operate in the belief that they get to set the prices for the commodity/service they’re competing for in the market. And they do this how? You’re there already, by mimicking the salaries of every other employer who is advertising, that is every other employer who’s failing spectacularly to hire good chefs.

Now to the selling bit. Are you selling? Are you even trying? In most cases the answer is no. A mind bogglingly high percentage of ad copy for chef jobs that I see looks as if it’s been produced by a robot. Often the word count is high and the bullet points overwhelming in number, but would any of it make anyone want to move job? Again the answer is no. Most ad copy I encounter would, were I still a chef, make me glad of the job I already have and thankful not to be working for a company who won’t even bother trying to woo me. If they’re like this before anyone even applies for a job what must they be like to work for, that’s likely the reaction of many chefs upon reading the typical ad copy posted by hospitality employers.

Chef Benefits, Your Ace in the Pack, Be Sure to Play it

What if you’re in the unhappy position of simply being unable to stand out in a salary bidding war? Is it game over? No, not quite. This is where benefits come in. Do you have any to offer? Well the truth is that a lot of employers do have them, but seldom make mention of them in their ad copy. Benefits are anything that makes the job more attractive. If it’s a business located in the city then parking would be a major benefit. The supply and laundering of uniforms is also a benefit. Is there something particularly agreeable about the kitchen rostering arrangements? All these things, and many more besides, are potentially benefits; so mention them. There’s no sign of any easing in the demand for chefs and there’s no sign of any improvement in the supply so that leaves you competing for the talents of those already there. Did you know that you were in a competition? No? Well you do now. Best of luck.

*The “going rate” is the price you pay to fill the vacancy with the quality of candidate needed to do the job; not the rate you, or others, decide to advertise.