Tom Kerridge: "It's not just money that people want"

The Staff Canteen

Tom Kerridge explains why recruitment and fostering a strong working culture are key for hospitality firms amid inflation and the cost of living crisis.

A year has passed since Tom Kerridge launched an ambitious recruitment campaign across his group in response to the staff shortage crisis plaguing the hospitality sector, which has only worsened with spiralling inflation and widespread economic downturn.

Speaking exclusively to The Staff Canteen about the success of the strategy, Tom said: "We're a year on down the line and we're really fortunate that our staff retention is quite high, so when we find people that are good, we're generally able to stay and stick with them."

For Tom and his Tom Kerridge Group, ensuring people stay in the business is just as important as attracting new staff into the business.

Across all five of the group’s restaurants, a great incentive has been placed on developing employees internally fostering an internal culture that champions and promotes employees regardless of their level.

"It's really important to build that team ethos, which is what we've done over the last 18-19 years,” he explained.

Revealing how he’s achieved this across the business, Tom said: "We’re thoroughly embracing apprenticeship schemes, we’re trying to work forward using staff recruitment networks that we know. Take every opportunity you can to get your name out there, and grow people, and get people through the door without forgetting the people that you have there in the first place, because they are the most important ones because you've built that business around them."


Whilst many operators have traditionally based their recruitment strategies around upping the pay of staff, Tom argued that getting paid the right rate is just one part of a much bigger aim for him and his group.

"If you create that great work environment and space, when new people come through the door, they'll realise there's something there that's a lot higher than just money,” Tom explained.

Describing the group’s strategy with pay, Tom said: "I think what we've found in the last three years, post pandemic, is where people have been trying to attract people with high wages, it's not just money that people want. It's recognition, it's an understanding, it's professional and personal growth, it's feeling like their part of something, achieving something."

Talking about pay within the industry more broadly, Tom said: "We all talk about the amount of hours that people work and the amount of pay people get but actually hospitality does pay quite well. We've got chef de parties earning mid £30,000 a year, so if you're a 23, 24, and a good chef, you can earn some good money."

"It doesn't pay bad if you can get your head down and work at it and work hard. It gets a poor reputation when people talk about part-time kitchen porters or people who just do breakfast shifts and get paid by the hour."


In March 2023, Sarah Hayward, Head Chef of the Tom Kerridge Group’s one Michelin-starred The Coach pub in Marlow, was awarded the Michelin Guide’s Young Chef award; highlighting her talent and how she’s benefited from and industry-leading working culture.

Explaining what effect this has had on recruitment across the group, Tom said: “It's been great because it's meant she's had a few CVs come through the door from young people who want to learn from a great young chef.”

The success of The Coach reflects a nimbleness from within the group where expectations and capabilities are changed without quality being lost.

"A lot of it comes down to having to tailor your business, not to your guest's need but actually to your capabilities of what you can achieve as a company. There's no point stretching yourself to do seven days a week when actually what you do is dilute the quality levels and standards of the food, service and what you're trying to produce," Tom said.

He added: "It's striking a balance between operational and quality levels of where you want to be and what you can build from and get to the other side.”


12 months on and the economic situation for hospitality is very different than it was before for operators right across the board.

"Ourselves and pretty much every other hospitality business is treading water and trying to survive. There doesn't appear to be any cavalry coming over the hill to save us," Tom said.

Describing the ever-changing economic climate and the effect it’s having on business, Tom added: "It's very much a case of digging deep and constantly evaluating your business on a daily and weekly basis."

Whilst tourism has improved to pre-pandemic levels, restaurant covers have worsened, creating a perfect storm paired with staff shortage and tightening of finances.

Describing how dwindling trade has affected the group, Tom revealed: "Overall we're looking at probably 10 to 15% down in terms of numbers coming through."


Explaining what he thinks should be done to make the industry more appealing as a profession and prevent more workers from leaving, Tom said: "I would call on the restaurant industry to continually put pressure on government irrespective of which one it is. Whoever it is, as an industry, we need to continually knock on their door, put pressure on them and speak to them about a reduction in VAT."

The issue of VAT runs central to the challenges plaguing businesses with Britain getting a significantly worse deal compared to our European neighbours.

"Most of Europe runs off a VAT level of between 8-12% and that's a big big difference. 10% of revenue doesn't go into owners’ pocket, it goes into businesses being able to survive and what that does is allow you to pay a little bit more in wages, it allows the profession to be seen a profession,” Tom explained.

Looking to the future, Tom added: "We need the government to understand VAT, we need a Minister for Hospitality, but more important we need a Ministry for Hospitality."

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The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 27th July 2023

Tom Kerridge: "It's not just money that people want"