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Catering Careers: 2020 year in review and forecasting 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the entire population, from children to the elderly and everyone in between whether in personal life, education or employment. For those in catering careers, the latter has been more significant than for most other sectors.

The catering jobs market in 2020

Since the middle of March 2020 when the UK went into lockdown, most people in catering jobs have had to face new challenges in either the way they now work, or with a complete job change. 

Prior to the pandemic, the hospitality sector employed 3.2 million people, a figure which, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), dropped by 261,000 when comparing July to September 2019 with the same period this year. 

According to UKHospitality, around 85% of the workforce were on the furlough scheme in April 2020, but as restaurants, pubs and hotels reopened this reduced to less than 30% by mid-August. The return of people to catering jobs over the summer can be attributed in part to the implementation of the Eat Out to Help Out scheme and the VAT cut for the hospitality sector.

However, the closing of non-essential businesses during lockdown then reopening at lower capacity has had a huge impact on the hospitality industry, as seen by the reduction in employment numbers. The effect on the catering jobs market as a whole is reflected in data reports, which estimate a drop of 34% in job postings across the hospitality and catering sector, from nearly 423,000 in January to October 2019 to 279,590 in January to October 2020.

What does this mean?

There are two significant factors in the reduction of job vacancies for those in catering careers. Firstly, the permanent closure of both well-known restaurant chains and small businesses unable to weather the storm; and secondly, the limitations on capacity to enable safe social distancing in the establishment means less customers and consequently, less staff. 

What catering job roles have the most opportunities?

The number of job postings between January and October 2020 for catering roles show that most opportunities are for Chef careers, Catering Assistant or Kitchen Assistant jobs:

  • Chefs (various) – over 92,000 posted job vacancies, down 40% on last year.
  • Catering Assistants – over 37,000 posted job vacancies, down 26% on last year.
  • Sous Chefs – over 25,000 posted job vacancies, down 44% on last year. 
  • Kitchen Assistants – over 19,000 posted job vacancies, down 17% on last year.
  • Waiters/Waitresses – over 14,000 posted job vacancies, down 40% on last year. 

How have catering salaries been affected?

With this year’s significant impact to Catering, we can see the median average salaries are as follows:

  • Sous Chef - £26,560, down 0.1% on last year.
  • Chefs (various) - £21,600, up 0.6% on last year.
  • Waiters/Waitresses - £18,752, down 0.3% on last year.
  • Catering Assistant - £18,400, up 3.6% on last year.
  • Kitchen Assistant - £18,144, up 5.2% on last year.

What regions have the most opportunities for catering careers?

Out of 50 UK cities, the top locations for job vacancy postings in 2020 changed very little from 2019. It can be predicted that these regions will still be the areas with most opportunity in 2021:

  1. London > 35,000 unique job postings
  2. Manchester > 2,000 unique job postings
  3. Bristol > 2,000 unique job postings
  4. Birmingham > 2,000 unique job postings
  5. Edinburgh > 2,000 unique job postings
  6. Leeds > 1,000 unique job postings
  7. Oxford > 1,000 unique job postings
  8. Bath > 1,000 unique job postings
  9. Glasgow > 1,000 unique job postings
  10. Cambridge > 1,000 unique job postings

Looking ahead and what can we expect from 2021?

Following the second lockdown in November, food establishments and those in catering careers are now facing the new year once again under challenging circumstances. 

Moving forward, there are positives that will enable some light at the end of the tunnel for the catering industry and those in catering jobs:

  • Renewed customer confidence – Eat Out to Help Out saw over 160 million discounted meals provided in August as people gained confidence to return to restaurants This initiative has seen restaurants continue with similar promotions to entice people back, something that will likely carry on into 2021.
  • Vaccination – as more people are vaccinated against COVID-19, we can expect customer confidence to increase further and see them returning to public locations.
  • New technology - will continue to enable restaurants to function helping to keep customers and staff safe. The use of order and pay technology has more than doubled since before the pandemic and despite concerns about it replacing human interaction, initial surveys have found this has not been the case.1
  • New services - restaurants have learnt to adapt to the new climate by providing delivery and takeaway options. It is expected that many businesses will continue to offer this into the future as it has proved popular and provides them with an additional service for their customers and jobs for their employees. 

We looked at the outlook for recovery of the catering industry post COVID-19 in June and have seen many of the new measures mentioned now successfully implemented in restaurants up and down the country, enabling people to continue in their catering jobs. The hope is that with continued safety measures, increasing customer confidence and more government assistance, the industry will start to recover in 2021. 

Where will the work be in 2021?

It will take time for the Hospitality and Catering industry to recover and for new job postings to return to their pre-COVID-19 levels.

Rather than working in a restaurant or hotel kitchen, you might want to consider Chef jobs or other catering roles or housekeeping jobs in a different work environment such as care homes, hospitals and schools. Our blog ‘What working as a care home Chef has taught me’ will give you first hand insight into what Chef careers in a care home are like. 

For those finding their catering careers on hold, you can use your transferable skills for job opportunities in other sectors. For example, if you have been working as a Kitchen Assistant your knowledge of stock rotation and food hygiene could make working in a supermarket a compatible job role.  Positions such as Customer Service Advisor, Team Leader, Shelf Replenisher or Car Park Marshall are often available so check out the latest retail job vacancies on our website.

If you have worked as a Waiter, Waitress or Bartender then you likely have good customer service and communication skills which could be transferred to many other customer-oriented vocations. At the height of the pandemic, Capita, required over 2,000 temporary workers to fill remote working Call Handler roles. Many of these positions were filled with Blue Arrow candidates as you can read about here. See what office job vacancies we currently have on our website here.

Whatever new direction 2021 may take you in, remember it does not have to be forever. If your new job role is not what you expected as your next career move, you can still learn from it. Working in a new environment will strengthen your communication skills and provide you with new challenges which will prepare you for whatever the future may bring.  

Important skills for work in 2021

Those returning to catering jobs in 2021 will see changes to the way things are done. To ensure you are ready it is important to consider the following:

Thank you and Happy Christmas! 

We would like to close out this final Catering blog for 2020 with a resounding thank you for your astonishing support throughout this challenging year. 

Each and every member of our catering community, you have all represented Blue Arrow with solidarity, professionalism and positivity in the face of adversity and uncertainty. For this and so much more - Thank you.

We wish you all a prosperous and safer 2021!

All the Blue Arrow team.

Other helpful resources

The Blue Arrow website has many resources which can help you prepare for work in 2021:

Where next? 

You can keep up to date with the latest blogs, industry news, information, tips, tricks, jobs and advice by subscribing to one of our newsletters.

Jobseekers 

We have a range of tools to help you with your job search, click here to find out how to get a job through Blue Arrow or click here to view our latest jobs.

References

1. instituteofhospitality.org. 2020. Is order and pay here to stay?. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.instituteofhospitality.org/is-order-and-pay-here-to-stay/. [Accessed December 2020].

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