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Word of mouth is best method

Survey uncovers insight into catering hires


A recent survey by catering supplies specialist Nisbets has revealed that 41% of recruiters find that ‘word of mouth’ is the most effective method for recruitment in the catering or hospitality sector.

Its survey, which had 1,323 respondents, led to Nisbets uncovering some unique insights about the catering industry:

The respondents

When asked to describe the establishment they worked in, ‘restaurant’ was the most common response at 18%. Other responses were:

  • 17% said they worked in a café.
  • 15% described their place of work as a pub/bar.
  • 9% worked in takeaways.
  • 5% were part of contract catering.
  • 5% worked in hotel or guest accommodation.
  • 3% described their workplace as residential or a care home.
  • The public sector, such as schools or hospitals accounted for 3%.
  • 25% of respondents worked in other fractions.

Industry concerns
When asked about industry concerns, the most common concern was standing out from the competition – 20% of respondents agreed with this. Closely behind this, with 15% of respondents flagging it up, was the service from suppliers. Additional concerns included:

  • 15% mentioned brand reputation.
  • 14% the cost of ingredients.
  • 11% identified the increased living wage.
  • 10% worry about retaining staff.
  • 8% about the shortage of qualified kitchen staff.
  • 7% were worried about job security.


When asked what method was the most effective in recruiting staff within the sector, 41% respondents agreed that word of mouth was the most effective, closely followed by website and social media promotion.

  • 12% found their own website most efficient for recruitment
  • 9% preferred recruitment websites for hiring
  • 7% relied on recruitment agencies to promote opportunities
  • 5% used online classifieds
  • 5% used print classifieds

It is useful to utilise any free methods, even in addition to other methods – the more channels you promote your job vacancy on, the better chance you have of finding the perfect applicant.

Staff training

When asked if they favour on-the-job training or culinary school training, 66% of respondents thought that it was better for kitchen staff to learn on the job – leaving 34% of respondents favouring culinary school. Having an apprentice intake offer applicants the opportunity to learn on the job, whilst also applying and recognising your business’s best practices from the word go.

Do the chefs entering the trade have realistic expectations of life in the kitchen?
The simple answer: no. When the respondents were asked, 82% answered no, and only 18% answered yes.

To ensure the applicants are fully aware of what is expected of them from the beginning, make sure that your job advert includes a detailed description of the role, link to a ‘a day in the life of a chef’ guide to give applicants an insight to what is required of them and upon their start date, and put new starters through an induction process.

Does the media accurately represent real-world kitchens and life as a real chef?
Despite respondents believing chefs had unrealistic expectation of work in a kitchen, 69% of respondents believe the media presents a realistic picture of real-world kitchens and life as a chef. Only 23% disagreed, whilst 8% said they weren’t sure.

What are the most important factors for staff retention?
The top answers were colleague relations and working environments, both having 16% of respondents believing this was an essential factor. Ensuring colleague relations and a good working environment should be a top priority to keep your employees happy in their workplace. Others factors include:

  • 14% listed work/life balance as being important
  • 13% mentioned pay
  • 12% shift patterns and hours
  • 11% thought training opportunities were important
  • 10% mentioned opportunities for career progression
  • 8% said employee benefits

Staff costing

With the introduction of the National Living Wage, companies were asked how they expected to offset the increased costs this would impose; 31% of the respondents said their company would continue to operate in the same way. However, others had something different in mind:

  • 22% said they’d have to implement stricter budget control
  • 17% suggested they’d have to increase their prices
  • 16% were going to improve the company’s product/service offering
  • 7% said they’d downsize their workforce
  • 3% said they would reduce staff benefits

Overall, the feeling was that the introduction of the National Living Wage had had no impact (55%) in the short time since its introduction. Some believed it had had a negative impact (31%) and the rest (14%) believed it had a positive impact in the short term.

This article appears under the terms of the DB Direct service

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