Village restaurants are struggling to recruit staff - even one with a Michelin star

Tim Allen of the Flitch of Bacon

Tim Allen of the Flitch of Bacon - Credit: Archant

A chef is urgently seeking new staff for his restaurant, which has just been given Essex’s first and only Michelin star, and has warned that the staffing shortage facing the hospitality industry is now at ‘crisis’ level.

The Flitch of Bacon in Little Dunmow, Essex. Picture: MARK HEATH

The Flitch of Bacon in Little Dunmow, Essex. Picture: MARK HEATH - Credit: Archant

Since finding out that his restaurant, The Flitch of Bacon, had been awarded with a Michelin star on Monday, Chef Tim Allen says their phone hasn’t stopped ringing.

“We’re running around the place like headless chickens,” said Mr Allen, who took over as chef-partner of the restaurant in Little Dunmow in February, taking over the reins from celebrity chef Daniel Clifford. Since then it has become known as Tim Allen’s Flitch of Bacon and serves gourmet British cuisine, including one dish, ‘the flitch of bacon’ which is cooked up for 63 hours.

“Its been crazy. We get a bit of breathing space at midweek lunchtimes, but every Friday and Saturday evenings we are now fully booked until December,” he explained.

But the prestigious Michelin star came at a time when Mr Allen was still trying to build up his team.

The restaurant posted eight call-outs on Instagram throughout August and September looking for kitchen staff, as well as employees to work in the front of house.

Mr Allen’s French wife Magali Duclos explained that they are now “very keen” to hire more staff as soon as possible, “because we are expecting to be very busy.”

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“Now in hospitality, its very difficult,” said Mr Allen. “There is a crisis in the industry, everybody is finding it difficult to recruit and retain staff. Demand is so high.

“Geography is a huge issue for us. Its not easy to persuade people to come and work in a village in Essex. But the Michelin star should certainly help, because it provides the sort of recognition that people can relate to.”

Andrew Boer is principal of Edge Hotel School at the University of Essex, which offers two year degrees in hospitality and events. He says that village restaurants have a particular problem recruiting staff.

“The housing available in villages is not of the right nature, or in sufficient quantity for restaurants and hotels to sustain a workforce,” he said. “Its undoubtedly likely to get worse in the next few years because of Brexit, because a lot of the skilled and unskilled work in the hospitality industry is being done by people from Europe. The industry is not seen as a career of choice for UK residents - its a part time job to them, and that’s a big problem.”

On Thursday, some staff in the restaurant industry - from JD Wetherspoon, McDonald’s and TGI Fridays - staged walkouts over pay and held a rally in London. But Mr Boer claims that the unrest is by no means industry-wide. He said: “Actually, the salary and conditions in the restaurant trade is much better these days. People are starting to understand that to get the right sort of staff in, you need to treat them in the right way.”