13 MAR, 17
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Reduced working hours in Restaurants – An increasingly common tactic across the UK – but for what end?

It is no secret the recruiting for quality chefs at the moment is an almost impossible job – the demand far exceeds the supply and restauranteurs are having to make significant changes in order to appear as desirable workplaces for potential staff.

In recent years one tactic being employed is the reduction in the working hours. Initially hailed as a way to relieve pressure on existing work forces, in reality, it is put in place in order to attract a new generation of chefs as the inevitable kitchen turnover continues.
In 2015 Mikhael Jonsson appeared to pave the way by introducing reduced working hours in Michelin starred London restaurant,  Hedone http://hedonerestaurant.com/ when the number of services dropped from 8 to 6. Mikhael has explained his motive behind this stating:

‘Recruitment has always been very difficult for us but things came to a head this spring. It was virtually impossible to employ anyone. The chefs are going to be very happy with their working hours so we’re expecting this to have a big impact on both recruitment and retention’

It appeared that finally the realisation that working 70 hours a week on a basic CdP salary was not conductive to retaining quality chefs who are capable to progress restaurant standards. Only this month, Michelin starred hackney restaurant Pidgin has announced it will move from a 6 to a 5 day service.  This 28 cover restaurant changes its entire food and beverage menu every week and has not repeated a single dish since it opened in July 2015. The restaurant’s founders have stated they now wish to give their chef team a break from this demanding process and are hopeful that more time spent away from work will allow the restaurant to continue to innovate and improve. So once more, there is an understanding that over worked chefs may not be in the best frame of mind to create the dishes and menus at the standard required. Creating a better work-life balance, will on the one hand, give staff a break and an element of freedom, but much more importantly, it will allow them to push the restaurant forward in the way the owners desire without getting burned out.

In a similar vein London’s Corbin and King, Darlington’s Michelin starred the Raby Hunt and Nottingham’s Sat Bains with Rooms have also reduced working weeks and asserted that change in operating hours will not affect staff salaries or bonuses. This, however, calls into light a rather scary realisation that was highlighted when renowned London restaurant Le Gavroche also reduced its working hours. In late 2016 Michel Roux Junior’s restaurant heavily reduced its hours after several former employees claimed they were paid less than minimum wage. An investigation by The Guardian newspaper found employees to be working up to 60 hours a week on salaries of £19,00 per annum which equates to an hourly pay of £6 – well below National Minimum Wage.

Le Gavroche has stated working hours will now be reduced to a maximum of 50 per week after it was found staff were working ‘longer hours than expected’ . The Restaurant has previously stated that employee welfare was central to its success and this was a major motivator in implementing the reduced working week – a statement is hard to believe when the reality of staff working for less than minimum wage has become apparent.
It is undeniable that reduced working hours will improve the working conditions of all staff remembers in any establishment but it appears that the reasons being proffered by restauranteurs may not be entirely truthful.     
 

Emma Conlon, Recruitment Consultant – Temporary Division 

13 MAR, 17
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