The catering and hospitality sector in Birmingham
- Executive Head Chef Salary (June 2019) in Birmingham: £43,150 a year / £20.75 per hour
- Sous Chef Salary (June 2019) in Birmingham: £26,746 a year / £12.86 per hour
- Chef de Partie Salary (June 2019) in Birmingham: £22,352 a year / £10.75 per hour
There’s much more to Birmingham than Spaghetti Junction. From Black Sabbath to the balti, this diverse and eclectic West Midlands metropolis is full of surprises. With more miles of canals than Venice, Europe’s largest jewellery hub and over 50 festivals each year, it’s little surprise that the New York Times once placed Birmingham in their top 20 places to visit. And with no less than five Michelin-star restaurants, Brum is also a haven for food and drink connoisseurs.
The largest and most populous British city outside of London, Birmingham is actually a member of Délice, a global network of ‘Good Food Cities’. Meanwhile, the city is home to over 100 balti houses and the famous “Balti Triangle” (covering parts of Sparkbrook, Sparkhill and Balsall Heath) attracts 20,000 visitors each week.
Such a reputation for high-quality dining has attracted some of the country’s best chefs. Brad Carter, chef and proprietor at the eminently popular Carters of Moseley, was awarded a Michelin Star for his efforts. Louisa Ellis, a Masterchef: The Professionals finalist, has worked in some of the city’s best kitchens, including the Michelin-starred Adam’s and the ambient The Wilderness – where the head chef is Brummie culinary legend, Alex Claridge.
With such a thriving food scene and competitive wages, Birmingham is increasingly becoming a hub for talented catering and hospitality professionals. According to our most recent data, the average chef in Birmingham earns £21,656 a year. An executive head chef can expect to take home £43,150, while the average assistant chef makes earns around £10 an hour.
If you’re a chef looking to raise your game, Birmingham has you covered. University College Birmingham offers Chef Cookery Courses that equip chefs with the practical skills and knowledge to improve their promotion prospects, while the Harborne Food School offers classes to anyone looking to add flair and professionalism to their craft. If you work for one of Blue Arrow’s catering employers, you may also have the opportunity to join a Blue Arrow Apprenticeship programme.
For talented catering and hospitality professionals looking to move to Birmingham, a range of jobs are available – from permanent work in a hotel kitchen to temporary barista roles. And with various events in Birmingham running throughout the yearly calendar, seasonal work is readily available, too. The city’s culinary scene is certainly in a good place right now.
Cost of living in Birmingham
- Average monthly rent in Birmingham: £1,225-£3,000
- Monthly travel pass: £62.50 (all forms of public transport)
- Meal for two in a mid-range restaurant: £50
- Council Tax: £1,062 - £3,188 per year / £88 - £265 per month
Though the cost of living has increased in recent years, Birmingham is an affordable place to live and work for catering and hospitality professionals. An average 1-bedroom apartment just outside of Birmingham city centre costs around £534.26 per month, while a high-end 3-bedroom city centre apartment will set you back £1,409.52.
As for travel, Birmingham’s public transport system is one of the least congested and greenest in the UK. The city’s efficient bus network provides cheap and regular services all across the West Midlands, with a one-way ticket costing £2.50. By train, 90% of the UK is within four hours of Birmingham, while London is only an hour and 25 minutes away. If you’re seeking some sun, sand and sangria, you’ll also have the UK’s third-biggest airport outside London on your doorstep.
Knowing food costs is super important for anyone working in the catering and hospitality industry, and supermarkets in Birmingham provide food and drink at the same prices you’d expect anywhere else in the country. Dining out also represents value for money, especially considering how good the city’s food scene is. A three-course meal for two in a mid-range restaurant will set you back around £50, while a meal for one in an inexpensive eatery costs around £15.
The cost of council tax in Birmingham depends on which part of the city you live in, as well as which type of property you buy or rent. The cheapest tax band is £1,062.67 while the most expensive is £3,188.
Bars, kitchens and restaurants in Birmingham
If you’re an ambitious catering or hospitality professional, Birmingham should definitely be on your radar. Whatever your specialism, you’re likely to find a workplace that reflects your skills and passions.
In 2017, Birmingham was named as one of the UK’s top food destinations by Booking.com customers. Since then, the city’s foodie scene has continued to expand at a rapid pace. From Opheem, Akhtar Islam’s ingenious twist on traditional South Asian food, to Tiger Bites Pig, Neil McGougan’s tiny Chinese eatery that specialises in steamed bao buns, an explosion of eclectic new restaurants are opening their doors across the city. For chefs, there’s never been a better time to head to Brum.
Of course, there’s also the small matter of five Michelin-star restaurants. Adam’s, the brainchild of owner and head chef Adam Stokes, serves up spectacular British fare at delightfully affordable prices. Simpson’s, based in Edgbaston, has long been a staple of the city’s fine dining culture. The bustling Purnell’s, the charming Peel’s at Hampton Manor and the contemporary Carters of Moseley complete the star-studded set.
Food may be big news in Birmingham, but so too is the vibrant Brummie bar scene – making it a natural home for hospitality workers. 18/81 is a trendy speakeasy and cocktail lover’s paradise based in a former army barracks, while Cherry Red’s is the place to be for craft beer, all-day breakfasts and burgers. For gin aficionados, a visit to 40 St Paul’s is a must – the bar was crowned World Gin Bar of the Year 2019 by Gin Magazine.
As for coffee culture, Birmingham is certainly leading the charge. The independent roaster Quarter Horse Coffee is one of the most popular cafes in the city centre, as Colmore Row’s 200 Degrees (which also doubles up as a barista school). Given that almost half of all drinking establishments in the city are coffee shops, barista work in Birmingham is flowing as freely as the flat whites being lapped up by Brummie customers.
From executive chefs to catering assistants, and everyone in between, Birmingham is one of the UK’s best locations for catering and hospitality work. No wonder it’s called the “City of a Thousand Trades.”