Over of a third of catering professionals cited the ‘love of food’ as what they enjoyed most about their job, as a recent survey from catering supplies provider Nisbets revealed.

Their survey of 825 catering professionals covered various elements of recruitment in catering, including the best and worst parts of the job and where the respondents felt like they learned the most. It gives us an insight into how the recruitment processes have been impacted over the last year.

The respondents

Job title

The distribution of industry job titles across the survey is as follows:

  • Business owner – 66%
  • Head chef – 16%
  • Front of house – 9%
  • Back of house staff – 5%
  • Sous chef – 2%
  • Student and apprenticeship – 1%
  • Comis chef – less than 1%


Type of business

A diverse range of businesses are represented in the survey:

Café – 25%

Including chocolatiers, sandwich bars, coffee shops and delis.

Restaurant – 20%

Including gastro and country pubs and farm shops.

Pub or bar – 15%

Including wine bars, sports and sailing clubs and pop-up bars.

Fast food or take away – 9%

Including retail butcher and cake and patisserie makers.

Contract caterer – 6%

Including private chefs, cake makers and decorators and private school catering.

Wedding or event caterer – 6%

Including cake makers, private chefs and in-house caterers.

Community centre or social club – 5%

Including churches and out of school clubs.

Care home – 4%

Including childcare, care hospices and nurseries.

Street food trader – 4%

Including delicatessen and gluten-free bakers

Mobile caterer – 4%

Including tour caterers and pet treat businesses.

Hotel or guest accommodation – 2%.


The 825 survey respondents are broken down by age as follows: The majority, at 32%, are aged 45-54. 26% are aged 35-44, 21% aged 55-64, 15% aged 25-34, 4% aged over 65 and 2% aged 19-24.

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The job itself…

The majority of survey respondents (34%) cited the ‘love of food’ as what they enjoyed most about their job. The ‘work life balance’ was next important (14%), with the job’s ‘fun factor’ following (11%). Other aspects of the job that customers enjoyed were it being fast paced (10%) and finally, ‘salary’ at 3%.

Others had other things that they loved most about their job. Some loved the independence of being self-employed, or the lifestyle the job affords, and the others loved nothing more than seeing a satisfied customer, with one respondent commenting: “The ability to produce a product that leaves a customer open mouthed, in tears and speechless.”

For other respondents, it’s all about the people – whether it’s their colleagues or the variety of customers they get to meet every day. Finally, those in more vocation-lead roles had a beloved cause at the heart of their role, citing ‘feeding [the] homeless’, their ethical ‘vegan’ business or conversely the job giving them a ‘chance to tell people how our meat is produced.’

Insights for catering and hospitality professionals:

  • Encourage your staff’s love of food above all else. Most people join the industry because they love working with food, so give them a chance to enjoy it – whether it’s letting front of house try the latest recipes, or giving all staff an input or involvement in the new menus you create.
  • Respondents were just as engaged with the lifestyle of the job, so make sure this factors into your decision-making. Form a team that gels well to create a more fun and productive environment.
  • To achieve the correct work-life balance, make sure you allow staff a fair distribution of days off when working on your shifts.

Unsociable working hours are what workers dislike most about working in catering, with 35% of respondents agreeing. The next most disliked aspect of the job is the salary (16%), followed by its repetitive nature (8%) and the working conditions (4%).

What else did respondents dislike about catering? As well as the unsociable hours, the long hours were a big concern, with comments that ‘a 140-hour week is not unusual’ and that they ‘currently [work] 7 days a week.’ Dislikes comes in all forms, including customers who complain unnecessarily, the struggle finding high-quality staff to do the job, or the physical implications of the job being tiring or having ‘aching feet’. There were also contradictions in opinions between those who disliked the ‘unpredictability’ of the jobs, and others who disliked it when it became ‘repetitive’.

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However, perhaps most interesting, is that 6% of the survey respondents had ‘nothing’ they disliked about the job.

Insights for catering and hospitality professionals:

  • Catering and hospitality is a lifestyle – and many respondents said that they loved all parts of the job. This could be because they’re driven by the love of their industry.
  • Unsociable working hours are the hardest obstacle for catering and hospitality professionals, so anything you can do to combat this is a bonus. Sharing out the more unsociable shifts is one approach or you can give a salary incentive for those who would prefer to work unsocial hours for money – which is also a solution for those who dislike the salary aspect of the job.

Learning a lesson

73% of catering professionals think they learned the most on the job. 2% cited culinary school as where they’d learned most.

Other comments revealed insights into where chefs and catering professionals learn their trade. A number of respondents felt they needed a combination of education and on-the job to training to ready them ready for a life in catering. Other comments acknowledged how much respondents had learned from other chefs, as well as ‘travelling’ and ‘experimenting’.

Insights for catering and hospitality professionals:

  • Make sure you have a well-planned and implemented training process for new recruits. This way, you can ensure that those joining your business know your processes and working practices from the beginning, and work to your way.
  • Allow room for creativity. Many catering professionals learned from experimenting with food and experience gained while travelling – showing a lot can be gained from giving things a try. If you can’t factor this in during working hours, arranging after-work sessions when people can practice and experiment could allow for this headspace.

Why did you decide to start a career in catering?

When asked why they started a career in catering, 28% of catering professionals said ‘an opportunity opened up’. The next most popular reason was that they were ‘passionate about food’ (25%), followed by them being influenced by a family business (13%). This was referenced in the comments about their family, which included working as a ‘husband and wife team’, or that it was part of their family history ‘my grandfather was a chef in the merchant navy many years ago.’

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Plans to recruit, difficulties and resolutions

36% of catering professionals are planning to increase their team during 2017. This is broken down into:

  • Front of House – 32%
  • Commis Chef – 8%
  • Head Chef – 8%
  • Sous Chef – 7%
  • Other kitchen staff – 45%

22% of catering professionals are not planning on recruiting in 2017. 17% of respondents are not sure.

35% of catering professionals have experienced difficulties recruiting for a position at their organisation over the last 12 months. Of the respondents who answered ‘yes’ to having difficulties recruiting, the following job roles were specified:

  • Front of House – 27%
  • Head Chef – 17%
  • Sous chef 10%
  • Commis Chef – 9%
  • Other kitchen staff – 37%

25% of respondents, in contrast, remarked that they hadn’t experienced difficulties in recruiting in the past 12 months.

Of those that have identified difficulties in the recruitment process, the solution for 36% was to hire untrained staff. 22% said they’d increase existing staff’s hours, 16% said they’d used a recruitment agency and 15% said they’d started an apprenticeship program.

Insights for catering and hospitality professionals:

  • If you are recruiting for a position in catering, give yourself as longer lead-in as possible. This way, if you’re struggling to recruit, you’ll be able to take a different approach.
  • With front of house positions being the hardest to recruit, it could be beneficial to offer more training in this position so that applicants feel more confident applying. Promote the benefits of the job, and offer additional incentives – perhaps sommelier courses or similar to encourage their professional and personal development.