Making fair pay pay

Ask any restaurateur for their biggest concern for the future success of their business and it won’t take long for the conversation to turn to recruitment, retention and pay. And the stats are a genuine cause for concern, especially when taking into account the scenario of the hardest possible Brexit.

42% of chefs are migrant workers – 18% from EU countries

42% of the 11,000 chef vacancies are considered hard to fill – despite 14,000 chefs qualifying from catering college last year

Workers in the hospitality sector working among the longest hours of any sector in the UK – according to the TUC

The industry has been soul searching and navel gazing for some time – why can’t we attract and keep the right people. And many businesses have gone to great lengths to make a career a more attractive proposition – reducing hours like Sat Bains, introducing more flexible hours as LEON has just done, including all staff in profit share schemes and bonuses like the Zetter Group and The Gallivant. These are all really positive steps.

Then, a story appears in the Guardian linking one of the UK’s best known, most expensive and highly regarded restaurants to levels of pay below the legal minimum.

A number of chefs had spoken to the paper and told them that they were routinely working 65 hours per week for their annual salaries of £19,000. And if you do the maths, that works out at around £5.50 per hour.

Michel Roux Jr responded immediately to the Guardian’s investigation announcing pay rises and a reduction in working hours.

Some might shrug their shoulders and say it’s hardly a surprise and when you take a moment to look at the stats (again), maybe that resigned, cynical view is justified. The Office for National Statistics found that a quarter of people working in hospitality were being paid near or below the minimum wage in 2015. And a small survey of 85 chefs by the Unite union found that 60% worked more than 48 hours per week.

But let’s stop a minute. Why is, or should, hospitality be a special case? As we said to the Guardian, hard-working chefs and front of house staff are the lifeblood of the restaurant industry and they deserve to be paid a wage commensurate with their skills, time and effort. For any restaurant to pay its staff less than the National Minimum or Living Wage is simply not acceptable.

In an industry with a huge skills gap, desperate to attract quality employees, it is a huge own goal for one of its best known names to be paying below the legal minimum.

With the Chancellor’s announcement of an increase in the National Living Wage to £7.50 from April, this is an excellent moment for all foodservice businesses to review their pay and hours structure.

To support ‘good’ restaurants who are treating people fairly, we are consulting our members on where to find savings in other areas. From energy, resources and waste reduction, to more efficient research and management of training, and supply chain. Because, bottom line, it should pay to be good.

To that end, we’ve drafted a super quick survey to help us better understand what SRA Members are currently doing and to inform the advice and support we can offer you in future. In April, as part of our Food Made Good calendar of campaigns, we’ll be focusing on Treating People Fairly. We’ll be looking for more great examples of champions in this area. So do please take two minutes to tell us.



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