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I Had to Sack the Head Chef: A Case Study

By: Maggie Lonsdale BA (hons) - Updated: 12 Jul 2010 | comments*Discuss
 
Head Chef Agency Recruitment Restaurant

When Michael Grundy, 44, launched his first restaurant, he wasn’t aware of how difficult finding the right staff would be, let alone how hard it would be to keep them.

In his business plan, Michael had allowed a £25,000 salary with various perks for his head chef, with a team to support him. What he had not considered was the hassle of replacing him or the recruitment fees for emergency cover.

Follow the Dream

Michael told us, “I had worked as a restaurant manager for many years and was realistic about the cost, hard work and stress of running my own restaurant. I inherited a sum of money from my uncle at the same time that a prominent location came up to buy in my local high street, so I decided to follow my dream of having my own place.”

Michael conducted a considerable amount of market research to ensure that he was opening a desirable restaurant for the local customers and, using his extensive experience as a restaurant manager, was aware of the importance of finding the right staff.

He continued, “I was able to advertise locally for waiting staff and kitchen porters, but it was the senior cooking staff that I had trouble with. I made sure I was offering a decent salary with a fair contract and the restaurant is in a decent location, so I was amazed to find only one applicant for the head chef position and two for the sous chef role. I interviewed them all and offered them all jobs, so there would be two sous to cover different shifts.”

Change in Motivation

At first, the three new recruits got on well and worked hard. One sous chef was particularly talented and keen to develop his career. The head chef, Steven, spent the first three months building up good relationships with suppliers and creating a good menu, but it started to go wrong pretty soon.

Michael explained, “He seemed to get really carried away with the job and couldn’t stand me making any kind of comment. For example, he started introducing really expensive items on the set menu and then would fly off the handle when I suggested we should cost it more effectively on the a la carte menu. He was also terribly rude and patronising to the waiting staff and would regularly swear and throw things.”

Michael called a meeting with Steven and gave him a written warning, as was the advice he had been given by an employment lawyer, with instructions to change his behaviour or receive a final warning in a month’s time. Unfortunately, Steven’s behaviour did not change, so the second and final written warning was given.

Finding a Replacement

Michael continued, “It was a relief to be honest, as it had become pretty unbearable for all of us. I put an advert in the local and regional papers but none of the applicants had any decent experience. In the end, I asked a recruitment agency to find me someone, even though I would have to pay a 15% finders fee. To tide us over, I used temporary agency staff, but it was so expensive and they were never able to stay long enough to learn about the job. In the end, I asked my best sous chef to take over a shift when there was no agency head chef available. He absolutely flourished and, as he already knew the kitchen, the shift ran like clockwork. I decided to promote him and, touch wood, it’s working out far better than I could have hoped. And it’s saved me a fortune!”

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