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.