The explosive growth of restaurants has increased the cooking opportunities for cooks and chefs and this has left many kitchens understaffed. In 2015 and 2016, a growing frustration with the lack of quality cooks put a spotlight on the long hours and chronically low pay that professional cooks face. As the restaurant bubble expands towards its bursting point with each new restaurant that opens, the job opportunities for aspiring chefs and line cooks continue to grow while the talent pool evaporates.
The traditional method of staffing cooks was to hire novice hands willing to endure long hours and low pay in exchange for experience. But a new bounty of opportunity and an unwillingness to sacrifice pay for de facto apprenticeship has made that method obsolete. So what do restaurants do now? Where can restaurants find cooks and kitchen staff to hire? Luckily, there are many new services and resources for hiring cooks, and some old methods that still apply. Read on to find out where.
Restaurant Focused Job Boards
Though the shortage of good cooks has kept many restaurants in hiring mode, there are more options than ever to post jobs and seek talent. Online job boards and service-based sites like Craigslist killed the classified sections of many newspapers, but this just means that there are new places online to hire kitchen staff and build out your hiring pipeline. Here are some of the best websites for hiring cooks.
The kitchen and restaurant industry focused Culinary Agents was founded in 2012 by former IBM executive Alice Cheng. The website design is clean and easy to navigate. The website describes Culinary Agents as “a professional networking and job matching website designed for current and aspiring professionals in the food, beverage, and hospitality industry.”
The site is dedicated to matching qualified candidates with jobs in the food and beverage industry. For those who are seeking jobs, the site also offers networking opportunities, industry focused events, and mentorship resources to help with career development.
Pricing: Basic option is $49 a month per job posting. Premium option is $100 a month for unlimited job postings for individual restaurant properties.
Pros: Caters specifically to the hospitality industry, focused on connecting employers with quality candidates, and offers big picture resources for industry professionals.
Cons: Though Culinary Agents is growing and currently posting jobs for restaurants in over 30 cities, they have limited postings for smaller cities. It’s a great site if you’re looking to hire cooks in places like New York City, Chicago, or San Francisco. Searches for jobs in small to mid-size cities like Milwaukee or St. Louis had no results, or a only single job posting.
Poached is similar to Culinary Agents with a focus on hiring in the restaurant industry. But the number of cities that Poached services is smaller than CA. Poached currently services culinary hubs like Boston, Portland, and Washington D.C. The site won’t currently help restaurants in smaller cities without the culinary pedigree, but these restaurants in these culinary hubs face the stiffest competition for business, so it can be really useful tool depending on your city.
Pricing: Basic option is $40 per job posting for 30 days. A $30 plan per job for frequent posters also gives access to premium tools like an interview scheduler and boosted posts.
Pros: A good option if it services your city. Its also cheaper than Culinary Agents for infrequent job posters. Job seekers can segment searches by specific areas like kitchen, barista, management, and counter service jobs. There is also no contracts for posting and you can pull a posting at anytime.
Cons: A smaller pool of cities that it services. It also doesn’t offer the same in terms of resources for industry professionals. If you post frequently, the $30 per post fee can get expensive quickly.
A robust site with a similar focus to the previous job finder sites but with a larger pool of cities and towns to search in. The site isn’t quite as sleek as Culinary Agents, but it’s still user-friendly and allows you to search by state, city, and job title. iHireChefs doesn’t mess around with any other hospitality industry jobs, and is solely dedicated to hiring kitchen staff from part-time cooks to scratch bakers.
Pricing: 60 day job postings can cost up to $265 for a single posting. Which is quite pricey compared to other services. But the talent pool is larger. There is a free option for job seekers to create a profile, but their membership system is tiered, and costs $25 per month for access to all jobs.
Pros: A site with a large database for jobs and representation in smaller cities and provincial outposts. They also put a lot of effort into their “imatch” search technology which matches qualified parties with one another. The site also posts your listing to other job posting sites.
Cons: The cost is quite high. And with hiring is already an expensive process, the high cost can turn some away.
General Job Boards
We’ve all tried are hand with these job boards. In the grueling search for a new career, or simply a better paycheck, many modern job seekers have signed up for sites like Monster.com and had their inbox besieged by job alerts for entry-level sales positions at insurance companies and data admin gigs whose prospects are dreary enough to stomp the optimism out of a sunflower. But alas, they do offer opportunities for restaurants to hire chefs.
Indeed surpassed Monster.com as the highest-traffic job board on the internet nearly a decade ago. Indeed pulls job posting from thousands of other websites and it is actually a job-centric search engine than a job board.
Price: Posting a job is free and you only pay when someone clicks on your posting. You can also “sponsor” your post to get better ad placement for as little as $5 per day. For a 30-day run on a sponsored post, the minimum cost would $150. True to the PPC-format, you can set a daily budget to cap your spending.
Pros: It can be cheap. And as the highest-traffic jobs website, it will put your listing in front of a lot of eager eyes. You have more control over your daily spend.
Cons: You could be flooded with unqualified responses to your posting, and the administrative work of sifting through countless resumes can be counterproductive for many chefs and restaurant managers who don’t have the time to vet candidates.
In-Real-Life Hiring Resources
The restaurant biz is social one, and as such, some operators can be adverse to online and digital means of networking and connecting with potential hires. There are still many opportunities to work with people over the phone and meet people in real life.
The great debate in kitchens is whether or not you need culinary school to become a kitchen professional. The answer is undoubtedly “No.” But the better question is “does culinary school give you an advantage?”. The answer certainly changes on a case-by-case bases. Regardless of your opinion on culinary school, they can be a great resource for hiring young cooks.
Many schools will have a job center that connects restaurants with potential cooks who are throwing their toque blanche into the labor pool. Kids from culinary school are especially useful for filling part-time or seasonal positions that coincide with their school schedule.
These schools focus on teaching students pliable trades and ready them for working life post-school. Many vocational schools have culinary programs that give knowledge and experience to young chefs looking to make a life in the kitchen. While these programs don’t get the attention that culinary schools like Le Cordon Bleu, they are a great place to find young cooks who are ready to work.
Promote From Within
A great way to fill cooking vacancies is to promote staff from within the kitchen. There are countless cooks today that started as dishwashers, slinging suds in the dish pit. Promoting from within the kitchen has a great number of benefits: Management is familiar with the worker, you understand their strengths and weaknesses, you know their work ethic, and you already have built a positive work relationship.
From the employees perspective, a promotion is a huge positive. It is positive affirmation and acknowledgement of a job well done. It comes with higher pay, more responsibility, and respect in the kitchen. Promotions can help build loyalty between and employee and employer, and help slow down employee turnover.