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The catering and hospitality sector in Reading

  • Head chef salary (September 2019) in Reading: £36,100 a year / £17.40 per hour
  • Sous chef salary (September 2019) in Reading: £28,500 a year / £13.98 per hour
  • Chef de partie salary (September 2019) in Reading: £24,850 a year / £11.95 per hour

Straddling both the River Thames and the River Kennet, Reading holds a prominent position in southern England. 70 miles (110 km) east of Bristol, 24 miles (39 km) south of Oxford and 40 miles (64 km) west of London, Reading is a large university and minster town that also acts as the county town of Berkshire.

Back in the day, Reading was something of an industrial powerhouse. It was known for the 3 Bs that underpinned its industry: beer, bulbs and biscuits. Nowadays, retail is king, with Reading being one of the top shopping destinations in the UK. The town centre’s department stores and chains serve a huge catchment area of consumers, who come from as far afield as Farnborough and Windsor. (Fun fact: despite being a hub for shopping and retail, Reading actually has the shortest high street in the country!)

In addition to retail, the town is a major hub for information technology and finance. Fujitsu, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft and Oracle all having a presence in the town, as do the Big Four accountancy firms.

Reading is also renowned for other things, too. The University of Reading is ranked as one of the top 200 universities in the world. The Reading Festival, held every August bank holiday weekend, is one of the biggest and longest-running music festivals in the UK. The first-ever Little Chef restaurant opened in Reading way back in 1958. Famous sons and daughters of the town include the regal (Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge), the talented (Ricky Gervais, Kate Winslet, Kenneth Branagh and Nicholas Hoult) and the controversial (Jeremy Kyle).

Despite being a place of reasonable economic and cultural clout, Reading is actually the largest town in the UK that doesn’t have city status. Over 300,000 people reside in the Reading urban area, so the opportunities for hospitality and catering work are numerous.

Salaries are also among the most competitive in the Thames Valley region. According to the latest Blue Arrow data, a head chef can earn over £36,000 annually, while a chef de partie can earn up £25,000 a year.

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

Latest Hospitality and Catering Jobs in Reading

Cost of living in Reading

  • Average monthly rent in Reading: £750-£2,000
  • Monthly travel pass: £59 (all forms of public transport)
  • Meal for two in a mid-range restaurant: £45

An average 1-bedroom apartment in Reading town centre costs around £850 per month to rent, while a high-end 3-bedroom house in the suburbs costs between £1,200 and £1,800 per month to rent. However, competitive wages mean plenty is left over to buy new whites or the latest set of knives.

Thanks to its comprehensive transport infrastructure, Reading and the surrounding region is easy to get around. Reading Buses operates a network of bus services throughout the Borough of Reading and into neighbouring parts of the Greater Reading Urban Area, including Woodley, Lower Earley, Calcot, Turnhams Farm and Purley.

By rail, Reading is extremely well connected. Reading railway station is one of the UK’s busiest rail hubs outside London and Birmingham and acts as an important interchange for travellers and commuters. The fast train to London Paddington only takes 25-30 minutes, while the station also has direct connections to Heathrow Airport, Gatwick Airport, Southampton Airport and Birmingham Airport.

For newcomers to the town, food and drink can be purchased at the same prices you’d expect in supermarkets anywhere else in the country. It’s also easy to dine out with spending a small fortune. 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 Reading 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 £1,266.53 while the most expensive tax band will set you back £3,799.58 a year.

Bars, kitchens and restaurants in Reading

Reading’s food and drink scene is eclectic, exciting, and always evolving. From rustic Italian to modern fine dining, every cuisine can be sampled. And with so many establishments to choose from, catering and hospitality professionals will love Reading.

London Street Brasserie - LSB for short - has become a fixture of the Reading food and drink scene since it opened in 2000, receiving Michelin recognition and rave reviews from foodies. Fans of Asian fusion food will love Coconut Bar & Kitchen - Japanese katsu curry, Malaysian rice noodles and Korean bibimbap can all be sampled in one place, with delicious cocktails as a welcome addition. Though it’s a 20-minute drive from Reading, a visit to the The Horns at Crazies Hill is worth it for rustic gastropub vibes and award-winning food.

The brainchild of Neapolitan chef Gaetano Abete, Caversham’s Papa Gee is a popular Italian that’s earned quite the reputation for its pizza and pasta. Likewise, Quattro brings authentic trattoria vibes to Berkshire, offering classic Italian dishes for reasonable prices. Shed is the town centre’s favourite sandwich bar, serving up delicious, healthy food that’s all colours of the rainbow. Momo House is a smash-hit among diners thanks to its authentic Nepalese fare, reasonable prices and friendly staff. And Piwnica is a rustic Polish cellar restaurant that does the simple things well: cold beer, pierogi, goulash and a range of stews.

In addition to the smattering of independent restaurants and gastropubs across town, Reading also has many of the restaurant chains common in big cities, including Honest Burgers, Cote Brasserie, Bill’s, Las Iguanas, Nando’s, Franco Manca, Miller & Carter, Wagamama and Prezzo. There are also plenty of cafes, tea rooms and bakeries for those who prefer working in a more relaxed daytime setting.

There’s much more to Reading’s catering and hospitality sector than just pubs, cafes and restaurants, with a wide range of job opportunities in the town’s primary and secondary schools, colleges, hotels, care homes and hospitals. The thousands of students attending the University of Reading campus also require talented staff to meet their food and drink needs, as do football fans at the Madejski Stadium. Seasonal work is readily available, too — most notably at the yearly Reading Festival but also in the many conferences and events that take place in the town.

No matter whether you’re an experienced head chef, catering assistant, wine sommelier or part-time barista, Reading is a fantastic, unsung town to grow your career — a great alternative to the big city but without losing any of the buzz.

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Where to find Blue Arrow in Reading

Blue Arrow Reading
1st Floor,
87 Broad Street

Tel: 01189 589962

Branch Opening Times
Monday - Friday: 7:30am - 5:30pm

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