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 The catering and hospitality sector in Luton

  • Head chef salary (September 2019) in Luton: £32,775.5 a year / £15.76 per hour
  • Sous chef salary (September 2019) in Luton: £30,500 a year / £14.66 per hour
  • Chef de partie salary (September 2019) in Luton: £23,920 a year / £11.95 per hour

One of the largest towns without city status in the UK, Luton is situated on the River Lea (from which it gets its name) about 30 miles (50km) northwest of London. Multicultural, down to earth and industrious, the town represents a great place for hospitality and catering professionals to discover the next stage of their career.

Historically, Luton was famous for its hat-making industry. The town’s football team, Luton Town FC, is even nicknamed “the Hatters” in honour of this trade. The team is currently in the second tier of English football and plays at the 10,356-capacity Kenilworth Road, though planning permission for a new, larger state-of-the-art stadium has been approved. As with most sports stadia, there is plenty of opportunity to pick up hospitality work on a temporary basis.

Car production was also a major employer in the town’s past. Though Vauxhall Motors closed its large plant in 2002, the company’s head office is still based in Luton and production of commercial vehicles still continues. Retail is also a major employer. Located near the town’s rail station, The Mall Luton (formerly known as the Arndale Centre) is one of the busiest shopping centres in the region and hosts a range of restaurants and cafes.

Arguably the biggest employer in the town is London Luton Airport. The fifth busiest airport in the UK and the fourth-largest of the London region’s six airports, Luton Airport opened in 1938 and was used by the Royal Air Force (RAF) during the Second World War. The airport handles over 16.5 million passengers a year and flies to 60 destinations across Europe, North Africa and Asia. It also contains a host of food and drink outlets that require talented staff to provide top-notch service to passengers.

Luton may carry some economic weight, but it’s also got plenty of academic and cultural heft. The University of Bedfordshire also has two campuses in the town in which thousands of students receive their education. The town is also home to the largest one-day carnival in Europe: Luton International Carnival, which is held on the Sunday of May bank holiday.

Famous Lutonians include Great British Bake Off winner Nadiya Hussain, documentarian Stacey Dooley, actress Emily Atack and formerly England cricketer Monty Panesar.

Salaries are also among the most competitive in the Home Counties. According to the latest Blue Arrow data, a head chef can earn over £32,000 annually, while a sous chef can earn up to £25,000 a year.

And for chefs looking to expand their culinary repertoire, the Luton area is home to a host of training opportunities. Alternatively, if you find work with a Blue Arrow employer, you may be able to join a Blue Arrow Apprenticeship programmes.

Cost of living in Luton

  • Average monthly rent in Luton: £600-£1,200
  • Monthly travel pass: £55 (all forms of public transport)
  • Meal for two in a mid-range restaurant: £45

Luton is one of the most affordable places to live in the London commuter belt. An average 1-bedroom apartment in Luton town centre costs around £756.25 per month to rent, while a 3-bedroom house outside the town centre typically costs upward of £1,000 per month to rent. However, competitive wages mean plenty is left over to buy new whites or the latest set of knives.

A well-connected public transport infrastructure means that Luton and the surrounding region is easy to explore. A guided bus network connects the town to nearby destinations such as Dunstable, Houghton Regis, Milton Keynes and Bletchley. The regular bus network serves the town, suburbs and surrounding region, with a single adult fare costing £4.40.

Meanwhile, Luton railway station is the largest transport hub in Buckinghamshire. Northbound trains travel to Bedford, Corby, Leicester, Nottingham, Derby and Sheffield. Southbound trains go to St Albans, London, Gatwick Airport and Brighton

Travelling to and from the airport is just as easy. A regular shuttle bus links the airport to Luton Airport Parkway train station in around 10 minutes. From there, East Midlands Trains provides services to central London in as little as 20 minutes. Thameslink also operates direct trains to St Pancras International, Farringdon, City Thameslink and Blackfriars.

Food and drink in Luton can be purchased at the same prices you’d expect in supermarkets anywhere else in the country. It’s also easy to dine out at a restaurant for affordable prices. A meal for one at an inexpensive eatery costs around £12, while £45 should be enough for a decent three-course meal for two in a mid-range restaurant.

Council tax in Luton depends on a number of factors, including the area you live and the value of the property you buy or rent. The cheapest tax band for residents is £949.44 while the most expensive tax band will set you back £3,557.52 a year.

Bars, kitchens and restaurants in Luton

As a diverse town of over 200,000 people, it’s perhaps of little surprise to hear that Luton’s food and drink scene is alive and kicking. From trattorias to traditional boozers, there’s plenty to uncover in this Buckinghamshire town.

Monna Lisa is a family-run Italian restaurant with a tiled-roof bar, wooden beams, exposed bricks and banquette seating — and the food isn't bad, either. The close-knit team at The Wigmore Fish, Chips & All Day Dining Restaurant provide no-frills seafood to an adoring public who can’t seem to get enough of the plaice. Wamimichi Noodle Bar serves the best Japanese fare in town and is the ideal spot for some late-night nourishment. As for gastropubs, The Bricklayers Arms, The Fox and Frog & Rhubarb all provide exceptional pub grub in a classic setting.

Old Skool Pantry is a restaurant-deli-grocers-patisserie that combines relaxed, hipster vibes with vibrant food. Another popular Italian hotspot, La Dolce Vita offers fine Italian wines, traditional pasta and homemade pizzas in a 17th-century former coach house and courtyard garden. Palestinian fare is perfected at Al Quds Grill Luton, where the friendly staff and tasty food have led to rave reviews from Lutonian diners. Other local favourites include Nakorn Thai (Thai), Jayraj (Indian) and Moziah’s (Caribbean).

Aside from the many independent restaurants and gastropubs in the town, Luton is home to restaurant chains common in the centres of big cities, including Nando’s and Pizza Express. For those who prefer working in a more relaxed daytime setting, there are also plenty of cafes and small bistros to satisfy your professional needs.

A wide range of catering and hospitality job opportunities also exist in the town’s primary and secondary schools, colleges, hotels, care homes and hospital. The thousands of students attending the University of Bedfordshire campus also require talented staff to meet their food and drink needs, as do football supporters at Kenilworth Road. Venue Central is one of the largest venues in the region for events, conferences and weddings — keeping catering professionals busy all year round.

Whether you’re a top-class head chef in a fine dining establishment or a part-time catering assistant at the airport, Luton is awash with opportunities for professional catering and hospitality staff.

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Where to find Blue Arrow in Luton

Blue Arrow Luton
8 Bute Street

Tel: 01582 401 636

Branch Opening Times
Monday - Friday: 8:00am - 5:30pm

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Latest Hospitality and Catering Jobs in Luton

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