If you own a restaurant, chances are you’re scrambling for cooks. Not monthly. Not yearly. Daily. In an industry as intense as the service industry, restaurants are constantly cycling through cooks, and sometimes resort to putting wait staff on kitchen duties. In recent years, it has become even more of a problem with the explosion of the restaurant industry.
Restaurants are in desperate need of talented cooks who work well under pressure, and are willing to set aside higher paying jobs for their passion. However, many aspiring chefs don’t necessarily know how much hard work and dedication goes into building a craft. With a growing number of restaurants and lack of willpower and motivation, establishments are struggling to keep up, and in some cases, closing their doors. Family owned, more creative establishments struggle to compete with the larger corporate restaurant groups and high-end food superstores that can afford to pay employees a salary with benefits.
According to Taylor Wright, former quick-serve owner and current Pastry Chef, “The biggest problem with the culinary revolution is that the population demands creative high-end food, yet we haven’t figured out how to pay for creative high-end chefs. How many cooks are going to stay in an industry where the hours are long, the work is hard, and the wages are never enough to pay off student loans? If America wants great food, then we need to figure out how to pay our workers a living wage. There would be no shortage of chefs if culinary school graduates didn’t have to leave the industry to find a way to survive. We went to culinary school because we love food, but many cooks leave the industry to become a server, wine distributor or corporate chef because we can’t pay the bills.”
In taking this information a bit further, we can truly realize that the industry is in desperate need of reform, in part because of this culinary revolution. When things change for any industry, wages need to change accordingly. Food costs may contribute to the issue, and along with this rising labor cost. When food costs fluctuate, customers don’t expect to pay more for a similar menu item just because it costs a restaurant more to prepare on a particular date. They want the $8 pork chop sandwich to remain $8, even though prices for pork may have risen. This, along with rising minimum wage, can make it incredibly challenging for family owned businesses to compete with superstores such as Eataly and Mariano’s. All in all, as the industry is garnering more attention, we need to figure out a way to balance food costs with the ability to retain labor force. Because without great cooks, there is no great food.