Calling young people to join our industry! (would you tell your child to become a chef?)

The setting for the latest AIR networking event was the fabulous Crazy Coqs cabaret, nestled within Soho’s Brasserie Zédel. The venue was packed with members who had come to discuss the challenges the hospitality industry faces in attracting and retaining young people, while munching on French pastries and drinking coffee.


Amongst our members, we were fortunate to have representatives from a variety of organisations, who proffered their perspective on what could be done to ensure the hospitality industry is positioned as an attractive career option for young people leaving school and university.

As we have seen before at these events, Tronc was still a hotly contested topic and much debate was sparked when one of our members boldly stated that he had recently taken the decision to stop paying his staff any tips or service charge! Given the discussion around tronc, our workshop hosted by Peter Davies on November 8th at Joe Allen Restaurant will not be one to miss.

Our co-founder and chair, Tim, opened the debate by putting the following question to the floor:

“Would you encourage your own son or daughter to pursue a career in hospitality?”

There was an acknowledgment in the room that more needed to be done to position a job in hospitality as a viable, long-term career with a transparent salary, flexibility and other benefits - one of our members mentioned that he has just built a yoga studio for his employees! Whilst this may not be a viable option for all our members, there was a recognition that more could be done to help hospitality compete with other sectors in creating a healthy work-life balance. Indeed, drawing inspiration from what is being offered by other industries might be a good place to start.

Many come into hospitality without any formal qualifications. This can sometimes lead to the perception that it is a job for the unskilled or uneducated. We know this is simply not true. Government-backed vocational training and apprenticeships would help ensure that young people are getting the necessary training and qualifications to facilitate their own personal development.

Presenting a career in hospitality to school children as something which should be considered alongside a career in any other industry may help correct these misconceptions of what it means to work in a restaurant. Targeting career officers who arguably have the greatest level of contact with school leavers who are considering the various options available to them might be a sensible strategy here.

For young people, seeing someone who has risen through the ranks, from KP to restaurant owner or head chef, gives them something to aspire to. There was a feeling that not enough is being done to promote role models and mentors within the industry, leading to young people viewing a job in a restaurant as a temporary thing.

For any job, the following three things are key to attract and retain staff:

  1. A great workplace environment and culture

  2. A clear and defined path for progression

  3. A healthy salary and perks

If the hospitality industry is unable to provide at least one of the three things above, then it will struggle to attract and retain young talent

What more can be done to achieve this? Let us know your thoughts and answer our Twitter poll below.

Big Flavour