Now that the restaurants are full again, Germany is facing an unexpected problem: no chefs. But how to find staff when the chef earns twice less than the painter? More than 17,000 chefs are wanted.
The menu of the Lux restaurant in Münster is rich: grilled specialties, fresh salads, fish delicacies. The kitchen is generally quite sophisticated, and the chef Marcus Gessler is happy that people are coming to his restaurant again. He would like to work at full speed again, but for now this is not possible: as the restaurant is looking for a chef and a kitchen assistant, Gessler is forced to introduce a day off at the restaurant.
The same is true in another of his five restaurants. Marcus Gessler was looking for staff everywhere – in the Labor Agency, on ads, among acquaintances and friends. But without success. And it is especially difficult to find chefs.
Why Germany was left without cooks
The problem is that during the lockdown, a large part of the gastronomy employees switched to other industries. Gessler managed to retain his staff by setting up a platform to deliver food to homes and to supply private parties. But reasons for the shortage of chefs have existed since before the pandemic. “The problem is pay,” says Gessler, explaining that people in Germany are not ready to dig too deep for food and drink.
When he writes a bill to a client who has ordered a private party and demands more than 30 euros per hour for the chef, he usually has critical questions, Gessler said. “At the same time, people pay a master twice or three times as much without thinking,” he added. Low wages in gastronomy have led to a large number of skilled workers being relocated to tourist centers in Switzerland, Austria or the German island of Sult, where they earn twice as much.
Yes, the higher the demand, the more likely it is to find payment above official tariffs. But the comparison between incomes in the various industries highlights the big differences: in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, for example, a carpenter earns 3,235 euros, a painter 4,671 euros and a construction foreman 4,755 euros a month.
However, one chef receives only 2249 euros, and the chef – 3476 euros. So it’s no wonder that there are currently more than 17,000 vacancies for chefs in Germany, and there are about 46,000 vacancies in the industry.
Added to this is the fact that there are many people in the industry who work part-time and do not pay social security contributions. “This proved to be a major drawback, as they were the first to lose their jobs during the lockdown, although it was clear that these specialists would be needed again after the crisis,” said Ludwig Christian of the German Labor Agency.
“Too uncertain industry”
In Cologne, too, many restaurants have signs reading “Day off” in many more places than before the pandemic. Kai Schultz, owner of a restaurant in Cologne and spokesman for the city’s gastronomic association, says he has managed to reopen his outdoor terrace. But he also announced a day off a week, because in the meantime he has only 40% of the staff he had before the lockdown. He has managed to keep his staff, but many of his seasonal workers have found other jobs in the meantime.
“They are unlikely to return, as gastronomy has become a very uncertain industry. People are reorienting. Until recently, working in restaurants was considered reliable, but now it no longer guarantees any security, ”says Schultz.