Crisis has altered the dynamics of chef and kitchen recruitment, says pub boss

Shepherd Neame kitchen

Pub chain Shepherd Neame said the crisis has altered the dynamics of kitchen recruitment, with roles that were traditionally harder to fill likely to become less of a challenge in future due to the availability of labour.

Discussing shifts in consumer behaviour in the company’s latest annual report, chief executive Jonathan Neame also highlighted pub recruitment as a “significant change” arising from the pandemic.

“In recent years, it has become harder to recruit for certain roles in hospitality, particularly chefs and qualified kitchen staff. But this has changed and applications for pub, bar and kitchen roles are strong. Demand for our tenanted pubs is also good,” he said.

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Mr Neame said it was hard to gauge at this stage which of the many changes in consumer behaviour during lockdown will stay for the long term.

However, he said that many were likely to be beneficial to the company if they become permanent, as and when consumer confidence returns.

Specifically, support for local independent businesses is strong, particularly those with a strong community presence; international travel restrictions are likely to drive more staycation holidays; and the move to home working, while negative for its London pubs, could be positive for its many suburban and village pubs in commuter areas, he suggested.

“The way we have adapted our offer to table service within pubs has been well-received, and the design modifications to create booth seating are also popular.

“It is also clear that we are entering a new era where digital excellence is a critical success factor for any consumer business. We are reviewing where else we can improve in terms of WiFi infrastructure, customer communications and consumer engagement via social channels.”

Mr Neame cautioned that the business would remain in a “time of considerable uncertainty” until there is a clearer indication of when restrictions will be lifted in full.

“Whilst food outlets have fared well so far, ongoing restrictions will have a negative impact on certain venues, for example pubs which rely on live music, broadcast live sport or host traditional pub games,” he said.

Shepherd Neame operates 234 tenanted pubs and 69 managed pubs in the UK.

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Andrew Seymour

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