Why Now is the Time to Consider a Move Into Contract Catering


Think cheffing; think long, unsociable hours, late nightsearly starts and dreaming of weekends off. But it doesn’t have to be this way. 

More and more, chefs and catering employees are exploring their options within the contract catering industry – a long-standing type of catering work which is currently enjoying a period of exciting growth. 

With over 28 years of experience in this sector, I have seen the catering landscape evolve as trends in dining have changed. The contract catering industry is on the rise – it is growing at a rate of 1.9% compared to a 1% rise in the catering industry in general – and it looks like it’s here to stay.  

In this article, I want to share with you my experience, as a catering and hospitality recruiter, of the rise in this type of employment, and the many benefits that the chefs and staff that I work with are enjoying after making a move into the world of contract catering. 

First, let me start with the reason for the increase in these type of roles – the growth of contract catering.  


The Rise of Contract Catering 

This type of catering, which is utilised by government bodies such as schools, healthcare organisations and the armed forces (as well as private companies such as sports venues and galleries) is increasingly becoming a popular choice, as customers and diners – be that university students or Saturday football match attendees, expect and demand more from the food choices available to them. 

A conference lunch ten years ago would likely consist of a range of sandwiches, whereas in 2019, it is not unusual to be served gourmet delicacies by top chefs, with a variety of options and even menus Take for example Manchester United Football Club – they recently appointed eminent chef Tom Kerridge to oversee all of the food for the ground – from pies for the fans to bespoke menus for VIP visitors. 

While Manchester United is an extreme example, it is symbolic of our increased desire, both here in the UK and across the world, for culinary excellence. 

Now, let me talk about one of the biggest plus-points of contract catering vs restaurant catering for employees – the working hours. 


Hello MondayFriday 

For the candidates I work with, the main allure of moving into contract catering is focused on one matter – the more sociable working hours. Chefs and catering staff are often resigned to the fact that their personal lives will be ruled by their workplace rota; regularly finishing at nearly midnight and having two days off in a row is a distant dream. However – contract catering is a game-changer in this respect. 

Increasingly, chefs and catering staff are drawn to contract employment due to the relatively regular working hours that it can provide – many contracts are in place to feed the masses during a ‘normal’ working day, and consequently the hours generally tend to be more reminiscent of the 9-5, Monday-Friday structure, particularly in contracted establishments like schools, universities and healthcare organisations. 

These hours are perfect for chefs and catering staff who are looking to raise a family, for example, or who have become disillusioned with the irregular schedule that comes with working in a restaurant. It is now widely accepted that an unstable work-life balance has considerable adverse effects on mental health, and this has proven to be particularly rife in the hospitality industry. Let me explain further why this is such a big issue. 


Work-Life Balance for Mental Health 

A focus on positive mental health is on the agenda for many hospitality employers, as experts have highlighted the long-term negative impact of poor work-life balance which tends to come as part and parcel in the sector.  

A 2017 Unite survey found that a quarter of chefs admitted to drinking to get through their shift and 56% were abusing painkillers to help them cope with the stresses of the kitchen. But chefs everywhere are saying enough is enough. Unichef, the chef’s union, recently set up a Facebook page for employees to talk about the stresses of chef life, and they offer a focus on improving the industry for the betterment of chefs and employers. 

Let me finish by explaining how a move into contract catering can be an excellent decision for your career. 


Career Progression 

If you’ve been working as part of a team of chefs for a while, in a restaurant for example, and are eager to spread your wings into the wider catering industry, contract catering could provide you with your opportunity to shine. 

In this sector, your work is dependent on your success (or failure) on a contractual basis. Some of our chefs work on large, important contracts for well-respected government bodies – if things go wrong there’s nowhere to hide. And while this might sound like a lot of pressure, many chefs thrive in this kind of environment – it is a chance to show their colleagues and peers the extent of their talents.  

If it’s your dream to develop menus, to work with a variety of clients with a bonus of sociable hours – contract catering might be the perfect move for your career. Get in touch with us at KSB Recruitment today to discuss your contract catering employment options. We have a range of positions available and are always on the lookout for top chef and catering talent. 


About KSB  

We are expert recruiters in the catering and hospitality industry, with over 28 years in business placing the best candidates in their perfect roles with obsessive attention to detail.  

KSB is proud to be a Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) member, accredited investors in people, and both Data Protection and Home Office Compliance registered. 

We specialise in roles in Birmingham, Staffordshire, the West Midlands, Warwickshire, Oxfordshire, Worcestershire and Northamptonshire. 




Is My Chef Job Stressful or Is It Time to Move to a Company with a Better Culture?

Being a chef is more than just a job – it’s a vocation. Qualified chefs do not go into this industry light-heartedly; it often encompasses everything they do – they live, sleep and breathe their work. 

It is this passion which creates the fiery atmosphere in kitchens across the world. Many believe that the high pressure of a kitchen is integral to the profession, and you will hear a lot of chefs stating that they ‘thrive’ off the intense atmosphere.  

But when does the pressure of a kitchen become too much to handle? Some chefs find it impossible to spot the signs, which can lead to burnout and even more significant mental health problems and sadly even suicide 

In this article, I want to share with you my thoughts and experiences of working closely with chefs to help them fulfil their career ambitions – how to spot when a negative company culture is affecting your career, and what to do about it if it is. 


Boiling Point in The Industry 

Historically, chefs have gone into the profession fully prepared for it to be fast-paced and high-stress, expecting to deal with it to meet their goals.  

But as the world is slowly shifting towards a more mindful and considered approach to the effects of stress on our mental health, it is thought that people are being discouraged from joining the chef industry due to its negative reputation in this respect. 

It was reported last year in Ireland that the chef shortage has become so pronounced the Restaurants Association of Ireland (RAI) has imported talent from Italy, Croatia and France to address a shortfall of 3,000 chefs across the country. 

The industry, in general, is slowly changing – even Gordon Ramsay recently admitted that he has vowed to reduce swearing in the kitchen for one of his television ventures. This is symbolic of a significant change in the cheffing industry – let me explain further. 


Changes in the Sector 


If you feel overwhelmed by pressure in your job, you’re not alone. It is becoming increasingly common for chefs to say enough is enough when it comes to the difficult working environments they are used to putting up with.  

Celebrity chef Jay Rayner in his Guardian article talks about the effects of cheffing on mental health, and how necessary change is coming, slowly but surely. And he isn’t the only one to do so: industry experts Tom Kneale, Andrew Clarke and Selin Kiazam have all raised issues concerning toxic kitchens. 

Working in a kitchen can be stressful – it comes with the territory, but the stress should not overcome the enjoyment of your job. When this happens, it is time to ask the question ‘am I really happy here?’ 


The Profession Vs The Company 

Falling out of love with your job can be disheartening for anybody, and even worse in such an all-encompassing career like that of a chef. 

Dealing with constant stress levels so high that they become overwhelming does not usually end well. Many times, when I speak to chefs who are looking for a new role, they tell me that they felt they couldn’t go on in their previous place of work – staff shortages, increased demand from customers and lack of support from management are among the more common complaints. 

Ask yourself – ‘when did I start feeling like this?’, ‘do I feel supported in my role?’ and ‘do I have a good relationship with my colleagues and my manager?’ 

If your negative feelings towards your job are stemming from problems within your current role – it might be time to consider your options. From the many clients I work with I can assure you that there are great establishments out there who look out for their employees; if you need help finding a new chef job – we can help with this 

If you have realised that your current place of work is causing you unnecessary stress and is making you turn to unhealthy coping mechanismsthen it might be time for a change.  


Changing Roles – What Options Are Out There? 


Of course, the best way to fix the problem is by changing jobs from a place where you are barely just surviving to one where you can thrive and are supported by your managers, love the work you do and have a better work-life balance. 

If you’re a chef looking to leave your current toxic workplace, what options are available to you? 

Contact us at KSB to discuss what career choices are available to you, or alternatively, consider the following options- 

  • If you are a CDP or are just starting out in the industry, and you love hospitality but constantly feel overwhelmed in the kitchen, why not consider a front of house or management role – is it possible to become trained up in a different skill in your current place of work? 
  • More experienced chefs have the potential to move into training or teaching – this is a great career move for those with at least five years experience in a head or executive chef role. 
  • Increasingly, we are seeing a range of catering and hospitality staff moving from stressful ‘traditional’ restaurants into contract catering. This kind of work is on the rise as chefs seek out more structured working hours and a change from the intense pressure of the Brigade de Cuisine.  



If you’ve outgrown your current role and are thinking of making a smart career move, get in touch with our consultants today to discuss your cheffing career options and the roles we currently have available.  


About KSB  

We are expert recruiters in the catering and hospitality industry, with over 28 years in business placing the best candidates in their perfect roles with obsessive attention to detail.  

KSB is proud to be a Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) member, accredited investors in people, and both Data Protection and Home Office Compliance registered. 

We specialise in roles in Birmingham, Staffordshire, the West Midlands, Warwickshire, Oxfordshire, Worcestershire and Northamptonshire. 




The 4 Step Guide to Building the Best Contract Catering Team

The UK contract catering sector is growing at almost twice the rate of the catering industry as a whole – at 1.9% and 1% respectively. The growth can be attributed to the nation’s increased desire for culinary excellence, whether they are having dinner in a fine-dining restaurant or at a work conference.  

As the demand for excellence in contract catering increases, this has increased the number of job opportunities available to chefs and catering employees looking to get into this sub-sector. Many want to take advantage of the benefits that this type of employment provides – namely the more sociable working hours, and freedom from the ubiquitous stress of the standard restaurant kitchen. 

So, when you’ve got a big contract coming up, and you need the best catering team possible, how do you choose from the range of applicants? What are the skills and personalities that you need to include?  

Drawing on my hospitality recruiting knowledge, I’d like to share with you the secrets behind what kind of chefs and catering staff you need to include in your contract catering team for maximum success (and guaranteed contract renewal). 


1. Chefs Who Are Ready for Something ‘Different’ 

Contract catering is different from working in a restaurant or hotel kitchen, and this can be part of the appeal. But, when putting together a team of chefs who are new to this sub-sector, you need to be sure that your chefs are ready for the challenges that come with a new territory. 

Working on a catering contract is different from a busy restaurant – are they likely to be fulfilled? The last thing you want is your chef leaving halfway through the time to work at an exciting new steakhouse because they got ‘bored’. 

Additionally, as chefs love to get their creative juices flowing, they will need to understand that they will have to work to the client brief – to able to come up with new ideas, but also be able to adapt them. This often means less autonomy – you need a head chef who won’t feel ‘stifled’ working to someone else’s brief for a considerable period of time. 


2. A Team Who Can Think on Their Feet 


Chefs and catering staff are used to pressure – a busy restaurant kitchen is one of the most stressful working environments I can think of!  

But with contract catering comes a different kind of pressure. It’s less about getting 100 covers done before 9.30 pm, and more about being able to make decisions always with the client’s satisfaction in mind. 

The stakes are high – by law, the company can be penalised for not delivering on the brief that was agreed upon, and this will inevitably lead to contracts not being renewed.  

So, when something unavoidable goes wrong on the day – such as a big delivery of fresh produce doesn’t arrive – you need a team of fast-thinkers who can quickly adapt menus and be resourceful with serving techniques.  


3. Reliable Representatives 

As contracts can be in place for months and even years, you need to know that your team are in it for the long-haul.  

In a contract catering team, there needs to be even more of an emphasis on teamwork than in other areas of the industry. 

For example, restaurant staff tend to come and go quickly (the hospitality staff retention rate is low at 75% compared to the national average of 80%) but to deliver on big contracts you need staff who are prepared to see the contract through from start to finish and who take pride working with a close-knit team towards an end goal. 

Because contract catering is, to a degree, intangible (the contract is sold before the client has seen the ‘process’ of the contract being carried out), your people are your product – and they need to be the best to represent your business positively.  


4. Forward Thinkers 


Contract catering is moving forward at the same speed as other gastronomic and fine-dining enterprises – clients are expecting more and more from the caterers they employ. 

Compared to just ten years ago, the choices regularly made available by contract caterers are huge – from vegetarian and vegan options, gluten-free, low-carb and healthier low-calorie options. Wellness isn’t just a buzzword – it is now ingrained in the fabric of food service in the UK. Additionally, a focus on homegrown produce, Red Tractor brands and sustainability is essential.  

To really wow your clients and their customers, you need a chef who is forward-thinking and at the cutting-edge of culinary trends, alongside a supporting team who are equally as aware and informed of the importance of delivering a top-class menu. 



Finding the best staff for catering contracts can be tricky – but we can help. We recruit specifically hospitality and catering staff, and with over 28 years’ experience, we have the knowledge and the know-how to quickly find the temporary and permanent staff you need when a contract is looming. If you want to know how we can help, get in touch with one of our consultants today, and we will get back to you within the hour.  


About KSB  

We are expert recruiters in the catering and hospitality industry, with over 28 years in business, placing the best candidates in their perfect roles with an obsessive attention to detail.  

KSB is proud to be a Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) member, accredited investors in people, and both Data Protection and Home Office Compliance registered. 

We specialise in roles in Birmingham, Staffordshire, the West Midlands, Warwickshire, Oxfordshire, Worcestershire and Northamptonshire. 




How to Help Your Hospitality Staff Achieve Positive Mental Health

Since it was first acknowledged in 1992, Mental Health Awareness Day (10th October) has gained momentum, with many industries now striving to reduce the stigma once attached to this type of illness. UK organisations Barclays, John Lewis and Royal Mail all recently signed the new Mental Health at Work Commitment; but when it comes to the hospitality sectormore still needs to be done.  

Earlier this year, the Royal Society of Public Health released a report highlighting the severity of mental health problems in hospitality workers. The report, Service With(out) a Smile? found that 84% of hospitality staff had suffered increased stress as a result of their job, with 62% of respondents stating that they felt the sector does not do enough to look after its employees. 

What can you do to help your hospitality employees achieve positive mental health? I’ll cover five key strategies in this article.  


1. State Your Intention 

If your organisation has never spoken publicly about mental health, a businesswide drive is the best place to start. This could involve posters in the staff room or shared areas, an email to all staff, even a meeting if possible – to inform staff that there will now be a focus on mental health in terms of work-life balance and that they should feel as though they are able to speak to their manager if they need to. It is important to make sure that everyone in the company knows that all members of staff, including senior employees, are on board 

A recent government report recommended that employers, regardless of workplace type, industry, or size, adopt the mental health core standards of implementing and communicating a ‘mental health at work’ plan. How is your organisation performing against these standards? If you haven’t discussed your mental health awareness programme – now is the time to start. 


2. Focus on Work-Life Balance 

Hospitality staff are used to long hours and rare days off, but if you have promised your team two days off per week and regular breaks – make sure they get them, or this will lead to them not just feeling stressed, but also feeling undervalued and unappreciated 

Check-in with your staff during shifts to make sure that everyone is having their allotted breaks, even during busy times. 

Encourage staff to use their breaks to get away from the establishment – in some places where staff live on-site it can become the norm for employees to spend all of their breaks and even their days off in the restaurant or hotel; they almost become institutionalised.  

It is important for hospitality staff to have a clear definition between work and personal life so that they don’t feel as though they are ‘on-call’ all the time. Encourage your staff to take time away from work, so they feel like they have had an appropriate break.  


Your employees will respond better to these small but significant changes when you demonstrate them yourself, so let me explain how important it is for you to lead your employees by example. 


3. Leading by Example 

A focus on mental health at work will not help anyone if it is announced and then forgotten about after two weeks by everyone – yourself included. 

recent Mind report found that 56% of employers said that they would like to do more to improve staff wellbeing, but they felt that they hadn’t had the right training or guidance. The government report I mentioned earlier offers the following advice for managers to support their staff’s mental health- 

  • Produce, implement and communicate a mental health at work plan. 
  • Develop mental health awareness among employees. 
  • Encourage open conversations about mental health and the support available when employees are struggling. 
  • Provide employees with good working conditions. 
  • Promote effective people management. 
  • Routinely monitor employee mental health and wellbeing. 

If you would like more information and actionable tips on how to implement helpful mental health strategies in your company, check out this great Mind resource. 


4. Check-in Regularly 

Once the subject of mental health awareness is established in your company, it will be easier for you to openly check-in with your employees to see how they are getting on and if they need any extra support. 

In a busy restaurant, staff housekeeping can often slip to the bottom of the manager’s to-do list, so make sure it is always a priority – commit to regular 1-1’s with staff every few weeks, or monthly (at the least). Even employees who don’t currently struggle with their mental health will benefit from these regular chats, and it can help you spot warning signs before they turn into anything serious. 

Finally, let me run through some tactical tips to support your staff, if and when they need it. 


5. Seek to Understand Your Staff 


If you become aware of an employee who you think might be struggling with their mental health, and you want to have a conversation, but they haven’t initiated it 

  • Discreetly take them somewhere private and neutral away from other employees. 
  • Ensure confidentiality – 30% of UK staff feel that they can’t talk to their manager about their mental health – let them know that your conversation is confidential.  
  • Listen and respond to their issues flexibly – can you change their shifts? Help them with training? They might just need someone to talk to. 
  • Put an action plan in place going forward and let them know that they will receive regular help and support as and when they need it. 
  • Introduce them to different options and places where they can gain support outside your organisationsuch as their GP. Additionally, there are some great workplace resources on the Mind website. Managers can only do so much, and sometimes you will need help on where to direct your staff if they need extra assistance. 



Working in hospitality can be rewarding and draining in equal measure – it’s not for the faint-hearted, but that’s why so many talented, lively and ambitious people are drawn towards the sector.  

As a hospitality recruiter, I work with a wide range of employees to find them their perfect roles in this sector – from Kitchen Porters to Executive Chefs, and the positive focus on mental health that is slowly starting to emerge within the industry is a win-win for both staff and their employers. 

Get in contact with KSB today to find out more about the brilliant chefs and hospitality staff we work with.  


About KSB  

We are expert recruiters in the catering and hospitality industry, with over 28 years in business, placing the best candidates in their perfect roles with an obsessive attention to detail.  

KSB is proud to be a Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) member, accredited investors in people, and both Data Protection and Home Office Compliance registered. 

We specialise in roles in Birmingham, Staffordshire, the West Midlands, Warwickshire, Oxfordshire, Worcestershire and Northamptonshire. 




The Top 5 CV Blunders That Are Stopping You From Getting Your Next Hospitality Job

In our previous blog about CVs we talked about the way you should set out your CV to impress the hospitality hiring manager. In this article, we are going into more detail about the common blunder we see on hospitality CVs which are stopping you from getting the interviews you want.

There has been a profound change in the way employers are hiring these days, with the rise of the digital era. Many companies now ask for you to complete an online application form as the first stage of screening, but in the hospitality world, the CV is still king.

Is Your Chef CV Still Fit for Purpose?

You completed your training years ago and have spent a long time working your way up through the chef ranks. You know that you’re an accomplished chef, so why are you not getting any calls back from the jobs you are applying for?

It might be something that has slipped your mind, or one of those annoying jobs you’ve had on your ‘to-do’ list for a while, but listen to us when we say – now is the time to update your CV.

How To Survive Your First 30 days In Your New Hospitality Job

So, you’ve just landed that exciting role you’ve been dreaming about. You might be the head chef at the newest restaurant in town, a prestigious hotel in the city or you’re moving to an exciting new place for a seasonal adventure.

Working in hospitality offers excellent scope for movement. The speed and innovation with which the sector is growing means that there are always new opportunities opening up for staff who are hungry for a new challenge.

How To Improve Your Hospitality Staff Retention

Staff retention in the hospitality sector is low at 70% compared to the UK average of 85%. Common problems reported include a lack of control over shift patterns, low pay and benefits and a lack of guaranteed hours.

With zero-hours contracts on the rise, it is not surprising that so many in hospitality positions feel insecure in their jobs. Brexit fears and a broader shift in the entire culture of work are also at play.

The 8 Most Important Hospitality Interview Questions of All Time

A hospitality interview can be nerve-wracking, especially if it’s for a position that you really want. In hospitality, doing well in a job interview can mean the difference between you staying in the job you have outgrown for yet another year, or starting a new adventure in a different setting, establishment, or even a different part of the world.

We have compiled a list of the eight most important questions you should prepare for, for your upcoming hospitality interview.