Brian Shane Excel RecruitmentKorea 2019

South Korea: Key to Solving the Chef Crisis?


It’s a continuous loop: hospitality businesses cry out for chefs, everyone points to different causes and solutions, nothing really happens and businesses remain in desperate need with the chef crisis.

While there are many proposed long-term action plans from governments, industry experts and think groups about how to solve the chef crisis going forward, none of these will put chefs in the kitchens of under-pressure businesses now. Last year, I was delighted to be asked to head to South Korea with the Restaurants Association of Ireland on a specialist chef recruitment drive. The trip turned out to be hugely successful we recruited fantastic chefs for own temporary chef team who over the past year have worked across Dublin for many of our clients. They have settled in nicely to life in Ireland and feedback from our clients regarding their work ethic and skill level has been fantastic. All of our client’s teams have loved the opportunity to learn from them about different techniques and about South Korean and other Asian cuisines.

Needless to say, when the opportunity arose again, I jumped at the chance. This time along with myself and RAI CEO Adrian Cummins, Excel’s very own Brian Nixon also made the trip. Brian has become something of an expert in recruiting chefs from abroad and the visa process over the last year, handling the administrative process for both our own chefs’ visas from start to finish. There are a number of steps to getting chefs over from Korea and into Irish kitchens, but Brian is the number 1 expert in Ireland for chef work permits and knows the minute details of each part of the process.

We again attended the World Job+ Recruitment Fair to meet and interview chefs who are interested in coming to Ireland on the Chef Work Permit scheme. As most people know, new regulations came into effect in March of last year, removing some chef grades from the ineligible occupations list and making it easier to recruit chefs from outside the EU. There is an overall quota of 610 employment permits available each year. Alongside meeting with the chefs themselves. Since returning from Korea, we have already placed nearly all the chefs we met in Korea with clients nationwide but we have a few really great candidates left and are in the process of matching them with potential employers.

Brian and myself also met with a number of Korean officials, including Chang Gyun Jaegal, the head of the leader in the Korean food services industry, a major group with over 400,000 restaurants to discuss the further cooperation and commitment between Irish businesses and Korean jobseekers.

If you are struggling to hire Chefs or retain them for long periods and want to find out about how Excel Recruitment can help you through the work permit process please do not hesitate to contact me for more details.

East meets West: Solving the Chef Crisis

Many people within the hospitality industry lament the lack of chefs in Ireland, with everyone having their own opinions and perceptions on the reason behind the low, and falling, number of chefs working in Ireland.

I myself have spoken and written about the issue many times, but as the problem reaches epidemic levels- who is actually doing anything constructive in order to try and resolve the issues?

As a proud and active member of the Restaurants Association of Ireland, I was delighted to get the call from Adrian Cummins to assist them with their latest recruitment drive. I have travelled to Korea to attend the World Job+ Recruitment Fair at the Seoul International Travel Mart 2018 (SITM) to meet and interview prospective Chefs who are interested in coming to Ireland on the new Chef Work Permit scheme, announced earlier this year. The new regulations came into effect in March this year, removing some chef grades from the ineligible occupations list and making it easier to recruit chefs from outside the EU. The is an overall quota of 610 employment permits available.

Even though it’s been a few years since I was last in my whites on a full-time basis, the Chef inside me was really excited to come to this corner of Asia. As my only previous experience of Korean cuisine came from eating on Dublin’s Parnell Street, I was excited by the prospect of trying as much of the local cuisine as possible and I have to say I was not disappointed in the slightest. The bustling but pristine streets are filled with the amazing aromas coming from street food stalls, fresh produce on display and live prawns and octopus in the tanks, a stark contrast to the mammoth New York-style skyscrapers y towering above and the familiar four and five star hotel chains that you would expect to see in Paris, London or Dublin.

And what of the Chefs?

Koreans by their nature are extremely hard working, knowledgeable, diligent and creative and this really comes across when you talk to the chefs. They are connected with food and take great pride in the skills that they gain in Culinary College and their careers, most of the Chefs have a good level of English and the main reason for wanting to come to Ireland seems to be to further that knowledge. I have met with a considerable amount of Chefs and there is great interest amongst them in coming to Ireland. Although the initial permit will be for two years, most of them are already planning to extend this further as even though there are countless restaurants in Seoul it can be difficult gaining employment opportunities and advancement in a city with over 10 million people.

If you are struggling to hire Chefs or retain them for long periods and want to find out about how Excel Recruitment can help you through the work permit process please do not hesitate to contact me for more details.

Shane Mclave General Manager

Budget 2019: Why Brexit is only one reason VAT at 9% must be saved

With the Budget looming, General Manager Shane Mclave offers his analysis on what this Budget, Brexit and the question mark over 9% VAT could mean for the hospitality industry

It’s the same story every year, as the hospitality industry winds down from a hectic summer season, attention turns to October’s Budget announcement and the debate around the industry’s 9% VAT rate begins again.

So will the 9% rate be kept this year or will it return to the rate of 13.5%, which was last in effect in 2011? The speculation is rampant again this year with no indications as yet from the Department of Finance as Budget Day draws nearer.Many commentators like to discuss the ‘cost’ to the Exchequer but this is an inaccurate analysis of a much bigger picture and completely ignores how beneficial the VAT rate has actually been. According to the Revenue’s own figures, in 2012, the first full year of the 9% VAT rate, income to the Exchequer was €630m from the tourist industry. This figure is anticipated to reach 1.04bn as a result of the increased activity in the sector. The 9% tourism VAT rate has been fantastic help to the Exchequer, not a hindrance.

Since the introduction of the 9% rate, the tourism industry – hotels, attractions, restaurants, B&Bs, caravan and camping sites, activity providers and many others, have created thousands of jobs. Recent figures from the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation (ITIC) show a staggering 79,100 jobs have been created in the tourism and hospitality sector since 2011.

68% of those new jobs are outside of Dublin, a feat no other industry can come close to achieving. Tourism and jobs it creates, particularly in the regions, must be supported and nurtured.

The ITIC has set ambitious goals for the industry, such as growing overseas earnings by 65%. This is only possible with government support… and the retention of the 9% rate. Any further increases in costs will achieve nothing other than stifling demand and damage one of the country’s biggest employers. Now is not the time to meddle with a successful formula that has worked so well and has so much more to offer. With unemployment so low and the minimum wage set to increase further, salaries and wages are increasing meaning the industry is facing mounting labour costs in the coming years. Now, is the exact wrong time to place further financial pressure on the industry.

What many seem to forget is that the 9% rate is not that unusual and actually brings Ireland’s tourism industry in line with the rest of Europe. 16 of 19 eurozone countries have tourism VAT rates of 10pc or less, making Ireland fully competitive with other European cities. This point can’t be stressed enough considering we still don’t know what Brexit will look like. No matter how hard or soft it is, Brexit will have an effect on Irish tourism, a fact the government must keep in mind. Irish tourism is uniquely exposed to Brexit with 40pc of all international visitors coming from Britain.

The VAT rate has enabled Ireland’s hospitality industry to do fantastic things- attracting more tourists, grow across the country and employ thousands of people. For all these reasons and so much more, Keeping Vat at 9% is an absolute must.

Hospitality industry welcomes relaxed work permits for chefs

The hospitality industry has welcomed changes to work permit regulations that aim to make it easier to hire chefs from outside the European Union.

The changes remove some chef grades from the ineligible occupation list, meaning that if an employer has difficulty filling a vacancy they can look outside the EU for a suitably qualified person. The grades that were taken off the ineligible list include executive, head and sous chefs with a minimum of five years’ experience at that level, and chefs de partie, with a minimum of two years’ experience at that level. A quota will apply to the scheme, with a limit of two general employment permits per establishment and an overall quota of general employment permits of 610.

The decision was signed off by Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys. Speaking about the decision she said, “My decision to remove certain chef grades from the ineligible lists will ensure that there is a mechanism to address the shortage of qualified chefs in the short term,” she said. “I have applied a quota to ensure that in the longer term the demand for chefs is met from a steady supply in the Irish labour market and, to that end, I am aware of the work that is underway to increase the supply of chefs through training initiatives such as the development of a new commis chef apprenticeship and a chef de partie apprenticeship.”

The Restaurants Association of Ireland (RAI) welcomed the changes. “The hospitality industry in Ireland has been under significant strain in recent years in regard to staffing, and allowing more skilled professionals to enter the industry can only encourage further growth in this sector,” said Adrian Cummins, chief executive of the RAI. “The Restaurants Association of Ireland has been lobbying on this issue since 2012. There is an urgent need for 7,000 chefs per year to service our industry.”

The RAI previously warned the shortage of chefs was growing at a rate of 3,000 per year due to a lack of training places, and it had called on the Government to relax the work permit restrictions. The association claimed the shortage was limiting the expansion of the hospitality industry.


IHF Conference- The Key Take Home Points

Not even the looming threat of the Beast from the East could put a damper on the success of the Irish Hotel Federation’s annual conference last week. Held in the Slieve Russell Hotel, the conference included a fantastic line-up of speakers, interesting insights and informative discussions. General Manager of Excel Recruitment Shane Mclave talks through the main talking points from the event.

2017 success for the industry

There was plenty of positivity new stories from the event. According to IHF chief executive Tim Fenn, 2017 was another strong year for Irish hotels and guesthouses and the seventh year in a row that overseas visitor numbers have grown. The average national room occupancy rate was 73% during the year, a figure driven by a substantial increase in visitor numbers from the US and continental Europe, as well as from the domestic market. This was welcome news for hoteliers and helped to offset the drop in visitors from the UK, where numbers continue to fall. Fenn asserted that the outlook for the sector remains positive with hoteliers confident about the future growth of the tourism and hospitality industry.

Craic alone not enough for tourism

Niall Gibbons of Tourism Ireland also discussed the dramatic drop in British visitors and said “the craic” won’t be enough to recover plummeting visitor numbers. Mr Gibbions said Ireland must hone in on outdoor activities to entice visitors from Great Britain, which is the country’s biggest tourism market. Visitor numbers from Britain have fallen steadily since the Brexit referendum vote in June 2016 and dropped 6% last year to 4.7 million visits. As a result, tourism officials have focused more on opening up ‘emerging’ markets like India and China and winning more business from North America and mainland Europe. Tourism chiefs are hoping to look beyond traditional boozy holidays and hope to win more business in the activities market. Daragh Feighery who will be opening the much anticipated Center Parcs in Longford gave us a sneak peek at what is in store for what will be a huge jewel in the crown for the Midlands with over 1000 staff in employment once the doors are open to the public mid-2019

End to the Chef Crisis in sight?

One of the most exciting talking points from the conference came from TD Brendan Griffin, Minister for State and Tourism. The TD casually mentioned that changes to work regulations for work permits are on the cards for 2018, potentially easing the country’s chef shortage. The statement was met with huge support and enthusiasm from all, particularly hoteliers and business owners all too familiar with the struggle of recruiting and retaining chefs.

Salary Series 2018- Chef Salaries

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Excel Recruitment are delighted to release our 2018 Salary Survey. Our Salary Survey covers all aspects of the Hospitality Industry including Hotel, Chef and Industrial and corporate Catering salaries. In a series of blog posts, Excel’s expert team give their take on the year ahead and the factors affecting salaries in each industry. In To view our Hotel and Catering Salary Survey in full click here. To get General Manager Shane’ McLave’s take on hotel salaries and the effects of Brexit, click here.

The Irish hospitality sector’s chef crisis continued to dominate industry news and discussion last year, a nowhere near new phenomenon that looks to set to continue right through 2018. Businesses of all levels, shapes and sizes are continuing to struggle to attract, recruit and retain a quality of chefs at all levels. While there is much back on forth on about the issue and many solutions suggested, such as re-instating Cert qualifications or promoting apprenticeships, it needs to be stressed that much of the issue is centred around the industry standard pay rates for chefs.

The Average

Chef pay rates are again going up but they are still well short of the average industrial wage which is €36,000 per annum. In most establishments, chefs have to manoeuvre themselves into a management position in order to achieve that salary. The increase in minimum wage which came into effect in January will further highlight the issue as hourly rates above this will be expected to increase in line with the 30c increase to the minimum wage.

The Solution?

There are exceptions, as we are seeing savvy operators within the Hotel and Restaurant sector offering very attractive packages to attract and keep talented chefs. They can see by increasing the salaries they are seeing the benefits of a higher calibre of staff, greater retention and a lower turnover in talent. Retaining staff will be a major objective of businesses in 2018 as recruitment looks set to remain a highly competitive, candidate’s market. We’re already seeing business work hard at this through a mixture of reward and progression.

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Tackling the Chef Crisis: Eimhear O’Dalaigh

In Part 2 of our Tackling the Chef Crisis series, consultant Eimhear O’Dalaigh discusses how she has seen the problem progress throughout her career as both a Chef and in recruitment…

The Chef crisis is not new, but have you seen the problem change and/or worsen in recent years?

Throughout my career as a Chef the shortage of chefs was always omnipresent but yes, the problem is definitely getting worse. We see it on a day-to-day basis in recruitment, there are definitely fewer chefs answering ads, responding to emails or willing to continue pursuing a career in the industry.

What, in your opinion, is the main cause of the chef shortage?

The job itself is quite hard and requires a lot of dedication and drive to remain in the industry long-term. The fall-out rate is very high in the industry. When I trained there were 30 in my class and out of this, only one is still working as a chef. Personally, I feel the hours are the predominant problem.

Is the problem industry-wide or worse depending on location, restaurant vs hotel or star rating?

I feel the problem is affecting restaurants, hotels and catering facilities of all levels across the board but it does seem that both the lower and higher end [Michelin and Five Star] of the spectrum seem to be having an easier time of it in terms of attracting and retaining quality Chefs.

What in your opinion is the solution(s) to the problem?

From the government’s side of things, I think a comprehensive training programme needs to be reinstated [like Cert] with proper work placements and from the industry side, the weekly hours need to be capped at 45. Often businesses are just shooting themselves in the foot by overworking their staff so they leave the industry and then don’t learn from their mistakes.All sides need to sit down and look at the problem and the potential solutions. They should get ideas from chefs, restaurants, educators, hoteliers, students and the people who have left the industry. The Government should also look at a program, similar to the one they use for nurses as there is a large pool of highly trained and experienced chefs in the states and the middle east that could be enticed over here if a visa programme were available
Do you think that there is a lack of incentives to work in the industry? What can be done to attract people to careers in the industry?

That is a difficult one to answer. Comprehensive training programs, treating it as a profession and not as a trade, trying to be a little better with work/life balance.

Tackling the Chef Crisis Series: Eileen Langan Rizvi

In our new blog series, our expert Hospitality Recruitment Consultants give their views on the Chef crisis and what they think needs to be done to solve the issue. First up, Eileen Langan Rizvi explains the need to promote hospitality as a great industry to work in….

The Chef crisis is not new, but have you seen the problem change and/or get worse in recent years?

Yes, the problem is definitely getting worse. Over the past number of years, I’ve seen commis chefs jump ahead of their qualifications to Chef de Partie/ Sous Chef in an effort by many businesses to fill gaps in their staffing. A lot of Irish chefs left the hospitality industry during the Celtic Tiger. With the economic crash, I had hoped Irish chefs would return to the industry but that hasn’t happened. Many have found a better work/life balance and no longer want to work in an industry where it is the norm to work excessive hours and every weekend for low pay. Current chefs working in restaurants, bars and hotels are seeing the lifestyle enjoyed by friends and family outside of the industry and are being inspired to move away from a career in hospitality. Others are aware of the shortage and wondering why this isn’t being reflected in their salaries.

What, in your opinion, is the main cause of chef shortage?

In my opinion, the lack of work/life balance is causing chefs to leave the industry and deterring young people from pursuing a career as a chef. The hours chefs are required to work are excessive and particularly demoralising for chefs on salary when they do the maths and realise what they are being paid per hour. Split shifts were abolished a number of years ago and this was a step in the right direction, but now chefs are working straight shifts 12+hrs instead of splits. Chefs are realising the importance of a work/life balance and are less willing to give up spending time with family to spend EVERY weekend and Bank Holiday working.

Another issue is the lack of a training Cert Course. When this was available, it provided a way into the industry for many young people and provided kitchens with eager to learn commis chefs.

Is the problem industry-wide or worse depending on location?

Through talking to my clients every day, I’m definitely seeing the problem is worse in rural areas, outside large towns and cities with bigger populations

What in your opinion is the solution to the problem?

Training Programs like Cert or proper apprentice programmes need to be introduced and promoted. These will promote hospitality as a career choice and provide a way into the industry for young people who have an interest in pursuing a career as a chef. They will also provide businesses with the opportunity to take young talent under their wing and train young chefs to become a vital part of their business.

I also think working hours need to be looked at by both employers and the wider industry. There needs to be a conscious effort to make a career as a chef more attractive by allowing chefs to have a better lifestyle.

Where should this solution come from?

The Government need to introduce a recognised apprentice program and encourage employers to take on young people as apprentices or on work placements. Providing training for young people at the start of their careers will encourage them to pursue a career as a chef by seeing all the benefits and opportunities that come with working in a kitchen.

Do you think that there is a lack of incentives to work in the industry? What can be done to attract people to careers in the industry?

Again, there needs to be a conscious effort made to achieve a better work/life balance. The very real image of chefs working 12+ hour shift and every weekend and Bank Holiday is making the industry an unattractive place to work and turning people off pursuing a career as a chef.

The Chef Crisis : Opinion Piece

It has been widely publicised in the media that the shortage of chefs is approaching crisis point. One thing that we’ve noticed while surveying, is that in many cases this shortage can be traced back to the pay scale for Chef de Parties.

In most cases a Chef de Partie will have completed 2/3 years in College and spent an average of 4/6 years working in kitchens. Yet a large majority of establishments are paying a rate of €12 per hour for CDP. In most cases this is an annual salary, so a Chef working 45 hours a week will take home an hourly rate of pay of just €10.40 per hour.

I last worked as a Chef de Partie 16 years ago. I was on £12 an hour, old money at the time. In the last 16 years the minimum wage has increased several times. There is now, justifiable, a strong movement being led by a large group of chefs. Utilising the power of social media they are pushing for a minimum wage of €15 p/h for Chef de Partie. This in my mind would go a long way towards solving the existing chef shortage.

Shane McLave – June 2016