Think cheffing; think long, unsociable hours, late nights, early 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.
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.
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.
We are expert recruiters in the catering and hospitality industry, with over 30 years in business placing the best candidates in their perfect roles with obsessive attention to detail.
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