As restaurants around the world pick up the pieces from the worst year in living memory, the issue of staff is one they have to face, and quickly.
With restaurants forced to either furlough staff, or even let them go, the grim reality was that many hard-built kitchen teams had to be disbanded. Even in the good times, restaurateurs were challenged to find and keep good staff. It has been one of the most problematic areas for restaurant owners over the last few years.
With so many kitchen workers enduring difficult working conditions for low pay and virtually no benefits, it was difficult for restaurants to keep an efficient employment system running. The pandemic changed everything.
With urban centres carrying the greatest risk from the pandemic, and often with no chance of work, kitchen staff were forced to leave. Some went home, some went to live in rural areas. Whether these talented, trained and skilled workers will return to their old kitchens remains to be seen. A lot of water has passed under the bridge this year and many will have had time to reassess their lives and careers.
Of course, some will return to pick up where they left off, but many may move on to pastures new. That leaves a lot big-name chefs looking to fill positions in their kitchens. We’ve seen already restaurants like Noma, Hisa Franko, MIrazur and many more advertise vacancies. We can expect to see a lot more in the coming weeks and months.
One of those big names facing a staffing crisis is the ever-forthright Tom Colicchio, who responded to a tweet from The Restaurant Manifesto, which noted the sadness associated with close-knit kitchen teams scattered to the four winds.
Colicchio put it succinctly when he tweeted: “80-85% of my staff left NYC”. That’s a statistic that speaks for itself, even as vaccines get rolled out, and restaurants look to a return to working at full capacity in the future. The timelines are uncertain. The closure and reopening of restaurants over the last few months has left many staff no choice but to leave their rented accommodation in the city and look for more dependable income elsewhere.
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