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 the contract catering sector 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 Contract Catering Sector 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 the contract catering sector 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.
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