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Chef Partnership Interview with Humdex - Your best chefs – why do they leave and how to keep them?

Updated: Jan 27, 2022

The Chef Partnership has enlisted the aid of Humdex (Human data experts) to do a deep dive study into the hospitality industry – specifically focusing on personal development, the state of the industry and health/wellbeing.

As many are already aware the industry is in the midst of a retention crisis. That is impacting the industry at all levels – The chef Partnership together with Humdex wanted to challenge the status quo “ that how it is, so that’s how it will stay” and put some real data behind the claims we have seen in the news.

“94% of employees said they would stay at a company longer if they were offered opportunities to learn and grow.” (Van Nuys, A. LinkedIn Learning’s 5th Annual Work Place Learning Report. 2021.)

At The Chef Partnership we specialise in solving retention issues for restaurateurs, and with our experience and this study we have found that there are some stark contrasts between the restaurateur industry and others – starting with the lack of investment in their staff. By reading our White Paper Study you can clearly see that yes, currently there are serious issues with the industry there is light at the end of the tunnel. The research shows there are some simple and effective steps any restaurateur, no matter what level you feel you are at can take to improve the wellbeing of their chefs and get out of the retention cycle.

We sat down with Humdex to hear what they learnt about the industry and find out how to start keeping your best chefs and attracting top talent to your kitchen. Here is what they had to say…

1. Hello, so firstly what does Humdex actually do?

In short we help companies unlock the power of their people data. Humdex is a digital HR data analysis and interpretation business. Our aim is to support companies in maximising the value of their people data for strategic workforce planning & diversity and inclusion talent market mapping purposes. We deliver high quality internal and external data with effective visualisations and interpretations to ensure fact-based human capital planning that is critical to deliver the talent to drive business strategy.

Working with The Chef partnership on this to bring some fact-based and data driven insights to your industry in the context of mental health/wellness was not only exciting but a great challenge, as particularly the focus on chefs is not the usual “bread and butter” for companies who provide data analytics or industry insights.

2. What was different about researching the hospitality/culinary sector?

It feels like a whole different beast to the rest of the research that we do. On one hand it appears that a lot of sources know a core of established truths in the industry (i.e. unsociable long hours leading to often stressful work environments, lower than average literacy rates etc…) and move forward with them as accepted “facts”, yet on the other hand there are very few consistent and impartial data sets that effectively measure, document and monitor market factors for the hospitality industry, particularly chefs, in the same way that other industries enjoy.

The lack of regular and trustworthy studies here really makes it hard for effect action across the board.

3. From your research what are the key attrition factors in the industry?

Apart from the pandemic? I would say that the largest attrition factor for the industry is stress and the lack of support therein. Stress. This is not limited to the hospitality industry but appears to be very acute here, particularly evident amongst emerging generations, who are more open about the effects and need for support in this regard. As a subset of this I would also say that working hours and lack of time (specifically in a role that requires creativity) are issues here.

4. Why is data important for Chefs, particularly their mental wellbeing and personal wellbeing experience?

Data is that all important backbone to any effective action. Data is not the answer but the key ingredient. Data lets us know where the pain points are in the industry and certain roles, literally where to act and a good idea as to how. Other industries will not move without a core set of reliable statistic to back up what they do, why should chefs be any different. Coming back to those accepted “truths”, I feel that if we were consistently presented with reliable fact about the state of wellbeing for Chefs it would be a much more galvanising issue rather than a silent status quo.

5. What kind of information is out there?

Specifically for chefs? Very little in comparison to our other research. We can observe core market statistics on employment rates, hours, some diversity metrics and salary but beyond that information is spotty and borrows heavily from more centralised studies on the general workforce. Several of the best market insights and stats are pre-pandemic and older than 2017. I worry that many studies are conducted in service of an answer/solution and not for the sake of the facts alone. I observed a healthy rise in wellness and mental health workforce status reports, pulling these together, improving the depth of their work and keeping them consistent will pay out over time.

On a positive note, information supporting the benefits of a happy, supported and productive workforce in studies applicable to this industry are comprehensive.

6. From your study how critical is the need for personal training, retention policies and wellbeing support in a modern kitchen?

As the volume of information for mental health grows so too does the evidence that it is a major issue impacting the bottom line and worthy of competent implementation. The incentive is beyond an altruistic one but a business imperative. In the wake of the pandemic culinary staff are in high demand and attitudes to asking for wellbeing support as part of a role have changed. Combined this means that talent from top to bottom can demand more from their employers as the employee/employer dynamic shifts. Those unable to effectively assist their chefs will lose out in talent and pay more for it. It is more important than ever that restaurateurs also know where and how to help their workforce consistently.

7. With this in mind, how much attention should restaurateurs pay to their Chefs wellbeing?

Both my personal experience, observing other industries, and market evidence heavily supports the need for the employers to take action for Chef wellbeing. Asking for help in a mental context at work is no longer a sign of weakness or something to be left at home, all generations are actively discussing and often demanding help here. In one of the more stressful industries employers that do not take a good hard look at how they deliver visible and useful support will fall short in productivity, creatively, bleed talent and suffer financially.

Thank you Scott

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