Outlook for catering jobs

Outlook for catering jobs

This time last year, no one could have predicted what 2020 would bring and how the thousands of people in catering careers would be rethinking the future of work in their industry. Now, with the hospitality sector reopened and new restrictions in place, we take a look at some of the employment trends seen in the catering industry over the past few months and consider what to expect for the future. Most importantly, we look at the new world of finding and securing work, whether in catering jobs or elsewhere. Read on to learn more and for our top tips on employability. 

The effect of COVID-19 and lockdown on catering jobs

When a country is effectively shut down for any length of time it is obviously going to have a huge impact on both jobs and the economy. Back in April, the availability of permanent and temporary job placements across all sectors saw a rapid drop, a decline that continued throughout May. The number of available job placements was still continuing to fall during June but not as steeply as earlier in the lockdown period.1 These employment trends were also reflected in the most recent figures from the ONS2 and as could probably be expected due to the closure of all restaurants, pubs, coffee shops and cafes, the biggest decline in job vacancies was seen in the hospitality and catering sector. 

Looking ahead, figures from the OECD3 suggest that employment across all industries in the UK is projected to have fallen by 4.6% by the end of 2020, with unemployment reaching record highs of up to 11.7%, a stark contrast with the record low of 3.8% seen in 2019. 

However, with the reopening of many hotels, restaurants and pubs across the country in July, and with the government's Eat Out to Help Out Scheme this month, it can be hoped that we will see an increase in the availability of catering jobs as we progress towards the end of 2020. 

What demand patterns are we seeing for catering jobs?

Following the closure of restaurants and hotels, our blog published during May looked at adapting to and coping with catering jobs in healthcare. At the height of the lockdown period, the majority of available catering and hospitality job roles were within the healthcare sector. Care homes, hospitals and hospices all needed workers to cover staff unable to work due to isolation or shielding. New job roles were created for Ward Hosts and Patient Ambassadors to help things run smoothly on the wards and extra cleaning staff were needed to keep up with increased hygiene regimes.

These catering employment trends are something which we see continue. The top five companies recruiting Catering Assistants and Kitchen Assistants have all been in the healthcare sector. For Chef jobs the top companies looking for staff included contract caterers providing services for healthcare facilities, schools and military bases and also some well-known gastropub and high street restaurants, which is, perhaps, an encouraging sign. 

The overall availability of catering jobs is much lower than usual in all locations, but based on job postings data, London has by far had the highest number of vacancies for those pursuing catering careers, with Manchester and Birmingham also in the top 5 for Chef and Catering Assistant jobs. 

While there have still been some catering jobs posted for Chefs, Catering Assistants and Kitchen Assistants, the number of job vacancies for Waiters, Waitresses and Bartenders have been even more significantly reduced. The closure of sit-down restaurants meant these Front of House roles have not been as in demand, while food establishments that were able to adapt and offer take away and delivery services were still in need of kitchen staff. 

It is still early days to see what the future employment trends might be for hotels, restaurants and pubs, but as they continue to reopen and adjust to the new situation and as public confidence increases, we can hope to see more catering jobs become available in these environments.  

How has the pay rate been affected for catering jobs?

For those in catering careers, evidence is showing that there has been an overall reduction in pay rates across most roles. However, it is not just hospitality and catering that is suffering. The joint UK Report on Jobs1 released in July by KPMG and REC, found that across all job sectors starting pay rates were falling as a result of less demand for staff in a time when redundancies meant more people were looking for work. 

Comparing the period of the lockdown, April to June 2020, with the pre-COVID-19 period of December 2019 to February 2020, Chef job postings across the UK showed a decrease in the median advertised salaries. Salaries for permanent positions dropped from £26K per annum to £24.5K per annum, a change of £1.5K. Temporary positions also saw a reduction in the advertised pay rate dropping from £12.50 per hour to £11.78 per hour, again a significant decrease of 72 pence per hour. 

Interestingly, for Catering Assistants and Kitchen Assistants the UK-wide advertised median salary showed a slight increase. The salary for permanent positions for Catering Assistants rose by £400 per annum from £18K to £18.4K and for temporary positions the pay went up by 20 pence per hour from £8.65 to £8.85. For Kitchen Assistants slightly lower, but still significant increase was seen. Permanent salaries increased by £300 from £17.8K per annum to £18.1K and the pay for temporary positions went up by 14 pence from £8.56 to £8.70.

As with Chefs, the median advertised salaries across the UK for Waiters and Waitresses have decreased. The period December 2019 to February 2020 saw permanent salaries at £19.1K per annum. In the period April to May 2020 this dropped by £300 to £18.8K. The same was seen for temporary positions with a drop of 14 pence from £9.18 to £9.04. 

Pursuing catering careers in a post-COVID-19 world

"Action on skills will be vital to getting people into growing sectors" 1 was the response from Neil Carberry, Chief Executive of the REC following their latest survey results.

What skills are in demand for catering jobs?

According to job postings data, the top 5 skills employers within the catering industry are currently looking for are a combination of hard and soft skills: hospitality, communications, management, customer service and enthusiasm. These same skills were most sought after prior to COVID-19, only hospitality skills have now slightly overtaken communications in priority. 

Other key skills and knowledge that are now more in demand for the catering industry include training capabilities, environmental health, quality control and knowledge of recipes. These are the areas you should pay special attention to when moving forward in your catering career. If you haven't already taken advantage of extra free time while in lockdown, it is definitely a good idea to sign up for online training and courses to improve your employability. 

Are there other industries where these skills could be used?

The current uncertainty around the future of work for the catering industry means that now might be the time to consider alternative career choices, whether for the short or long-term. 

The data for June1 showed an excess of people with hospitality skills and experience looking for work but there are certain skills in short supply in other industries. As the hospitality and catering industry recovers, it is worth considering these other options. Permanent and temporary staff are needed to fill roles such as Drivers, Forklift Drivers, Warehouse Operatives, Shelf Fillers, Refuse and Salvage workers and Carers. View our range of jobs available here.

Think about the skills you already have, what alternative career path could you take? If you are looking for a really exciting new opportunity then it's worth having a read of our latest blogs.

The new world of finding and securing work

When thinking about your future of work you could consider a compatible occupation, using some of your skills in a different sector for the interim period while the jobs market and economy recover from the impact of COVID-19. Our advice is to keep following the insights that we share and stay up-to-date on new sources of jobs, but you also need to keep an open mind and be willing to try something new. 

To help in your job search our blog on how to get a job through Blue Arrow will provide you with some useful information to get started. However, like all businesses there will be some changes to how we work as a result of COVID-19, one of which has been moving the registration process online using short video calls to get to know our candidates and to validate documents. 

5 top tips for employability

As you emerge from lockdown and consider your future of work in the catering industry, you need to think about what you can do now to be ready for that job when it comes. Here are our 5 top tips on how to be prepared.

1. Be in the right place at the right time

2. Update your CV

3. Continue to learn and practice new skills

4. Be interview ready

5. Try something new

  • Don't be afraid to take on a different job role to acquire new skills and experience. It could be a stop gap until you return to your catering career or who knows, it could become an enjoyable permanent career change.  


1 REC, UK. 2020. Report on Jobs: Downturn in recruitment activity eases in June. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.rec.uk.com/our-view/news/press-releases/report-jobs-downturn-recruitment-activity-eases-june. [Accessed July 2020].

2 Office for National Statistics. Labour market overview, UK: July 2020 [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/employmentandemployeetypes/bulletins/uklabourmarket/latest. [Accessed July 2020].

3 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. OECD Employment Outlook 2020. Worker Security and the COVID-19 Crisis [ONLINE] Available at: https://read.oecd-ilibrary.org/view/?ref=134_134947-lyixdpsqh2&title=Employment-Outlook-UnitedKingdom-EN. [Accessed July 2020].