The “negative perceptions” of kitchens as “noisy, aggressive and macho” working environments with long hours is a root cause of the staff and skills shortage threatening the industry, a report backed by industry figures and MPs has claimed.
An industry-wide report into the changing face of recruitment found that respondents were “unanimous in the belief that the sector must collectively challenge negative perceptions of hospitality careers”.
The UK Hospitality Workforce Commission 2030 report, launched in Parliament on Monday, has support from both Conservative and Labour politicians and heard testimony from more than 100 industry figures.
It follows a push to refresh the face of catering, voiced by industry figures such as Le Manoir’s Raymond Blanc, who earlier this year said: “We had created an industry that was too tough, with no structure, no proper empathy or support.”
The report states it is now time to ensure the message of a changing culture in catering is promoted “in a cross-industry, nationwide campaign aimed at schools, further education, government, parents and other influencers”.
UKHospitality chief Kate Nicholls said that what the industry needed was “a bit of myth-busting”, telling The Caterer: “I think we have so many negative perceptions around working in a kitchen – that it is going to be loud, noisy, aggressive, macho, hot and sweaty with long hours. Yes, it’s really hard work, but it doesn’t have to be like that.”
She added: “If you go into quite a lot of modern kitchens, they aren’t the kind of macho environment that people envisage. Quite often they are calm, they aren’t shouty, there are opportunities for flexible working, you can fit it around a family.
“I think people don’t realise that, and therefore think it’s going to be 60-hour weeks – it doesn’t have to be that way.”
Raymond Blanc highlighted the issue to The Caterer in May’s cover feature, stating: “Violence in the kitchen has been heavily publicised and sensationalised on television. Young people being humiliated drew huge numbers of viewers. Burn marks, macho culture, it was frightening to see that. That’s how people see our industry. It’s harmed us so badly.”
He added that it was vital that hospitality employers “reinvent our industry into one which really cares, which supports, which is modern and corresponds to all the rules and regulations. It’s exciting and possible.”
The campaign to re-brand the career choice is one of many recommendations to support the industry made in the report, which includes calls to conduct an urgent review on the apprenticeship levy and for the introduction of an evidence based immigration system with the workforce in mind.