Excel Recruitment finished off a stellar year in 2016 by winning the National Recruitment Federation’s Agency of the Year award. General Manager Shane McLave tells us why 2017 will be an even bigger year for the company, and shares some key findings from their most recent salary survey of industry employers.

The prestigious National Recruitment Federation awards are hugely competitive and see recruitment giants from the financial, technology and hospitality sectors go head to head for the title of Best Agency 2016. “It is an award that recognises not only our successful track record of ‘placing great people with great companies’, but also celebrates our expertise, commitment and dedication to the industry,” says Shane. “2016 was a great year for us – we enjoyed 45% growth and our team has doubled in size to 22 dedicated staff. We continued to place quality candidates with our loyal clients, and we started new relationships with some of Ireland’s most exciting hospitality groups.” 2017 will be an even bigger year for Excel as they open offices in Cork, Limerick, Waterford and Galway. “The opening of the new Cork office will mark the start of our nationwide branch openings,” says Shane. “Our decision to open up regional branches is in direct response to the rate at which our clients in the industry are currently growing. With the future so bright for hospitality, we see this trend continuing in the future”

A Record Year for Tourism

The hospitality industry, perhaps more than other industries, is reliant on a positive economy, and more vulnerable to a negative one. How a post-Brexit Britain will impact on Ireland is uncertain. However, despite this great unknown, Shane says that those that are pessimistic about its future impact should remember what a successful year 2016 was for Irish tourism. ‘Sales of Irish hotel properties exceeded €700m, more than 10.5 million tourists visited Irish shores, and 2017 is expected to be even more positive, with further growth of 4.5% estimated,” he says. “Also, Ireland is currently not meeting the demand for hotel beds and if this issue can be rectified in the coming years, and there are plans in place, the industry looks set to boom. The food service industry took in nearly €5.4bn and experienced phenomenal growth.” In fact, Shane regards the post-Brexit landscape as posing a number of significant opportunities for the Irish hospitality industry. “How many people from the hospitality industry across the EU are currently working in the UK to improve their language skills, or to simply live in an English-speaking environment? How can we attract them, post Brexit, to Ireland? In an effort to attract new talent into the industry in Ireland, Excel Recruitment has already established connections with several educational establishments in other EU states that are dedicated to training young people for a career in hospitality. However, I do believe that we need a stronger action plan for the hospitality industry from our government.”

Salary Survey – Key Findings

Some of the key findings of Excel Recruitment’s 2017 Salary Survey should be of interest to the country’s hospitality employers and will, no doubt, inform their action plans for their own businesses this year. On a positive note, the survey shows that 80% of employers are planning numerous new hires at most levels in 2017. Regarding chefs, one of Excel Recruitment’s senior recruiters, Laurence Rogers, says that although the salary for a Sous Chef has not changed much, kitchens are eager to give the title of Sous Chef to the Chef de Partie in order to aid staff retention. “The salary for a Chef de Partie in an average kitchen has risen by about four per cent on last year, an indication that it is still a candidates market,” he says. “This is also the case for most Head Chef positions, which are showing an increase of anything between four per cent and eight per cent.”

If employers wish to attract the best of the best in terms of culinary talent, this should be reflected in pay increases up the chain.”

The 2017 Salary Survey also reveals that the salary of HR Managers has not changed in the last year. “This is an indication of how important the role is within hotels, especially stand alone properties,” says Lawrence. “However, the growing number of group-owned properties means that it is easier to make the transition from Assistant HR Manager to HR Manager. A large support network from head office facilitates on-the-job training which counteracts any lack of experience that a promoted candidate may have in a HR Managerial role.”  The survey also indicated a decrease of 12.5% in the salary of the average Sales Executive and no movement in the salary for a Sales Manager. “This anomaly shows that the industry is taking on Sales Executives with no experience in the hospitality industry on a lower salary, while at the same time creating the title of Sales Manager for Sales Executives with hospitality sales experience but not so much management experience,” he says. “Again, especially within group properties, the inefficiency in management experience can be compensated for by having a group support network in place.”

Staff Shortages

While there is a shortage of over 3,000 beds in Dublin alone, there is also a shortage of experienced accommodation staff. “Hotels are under more pressure than ever to turn around rooms, and to a much higher standard, than in previous years,” says Laurence. “If there is an increase in available rooms in Dublin over the next 12 months, we can expect to see an increase in the demand for accommodation staff. In addition, an increase in visitor numbers has led to more and more people staying out late at night. As a consequence, busy hotels are now looking at their security arrangements for employees at night. And the shortage of chefs will continue this year, but there are companies like ourselves who are taking the initiative and exploring foreign markets to address the problem. There is also a movement of chefs that are looking to create a better working environment within the hospitality industry, which will not only cover better pay, but also better working conditions, better hours etc.”

The Chef Crisis

The chef crisis in Ireland has been well documented and much discussed. The causes and potential solutions are numerous – and complicated. Shane McLave began his career as a Chef in 1995, rising through the ranks to become Head Chef, before making the move into recruitment in 2005. His experience of working as a chef in hotels, restaurants and contract catering companies means that he understands the benefits, and the downsides, of working in hospitality, and can instantly spot candidates who will thrive in this environment. Equally, Shane takes the time to understand each individual client’s needs, along with the unique culture of their business, giving him one of the most successful track records in hospitality recruitment. “The pay scale for chefs is often quoted as the core issue and is a sore spot for both sides,” says Shane McLave. “In the debate about pay scales, it is worth noting that the minimum wage increased again in January, the latest in a series of increases, and now stands at €9.25 an hour. If employers wish to attract the best of the best in terms of culinary talent, this should be reflected in pay increases up the chain.”

If there is an increase in available rooms in Dublin over the next 12 months, we can expect to see an increase in the demand for accommodation staff.”

The turnaround between interview and job offer is another factor that is contributing to the struggle to recruit quality chefs. “Chefs on the move are in high demand, and don’t necessarily want to or need to hang around for employers to make their move,” he says. “I have seen many great clients lose great chefs by waiting too long to roll out an offer. While nobody is expected to rush a decision of such importance for their business, it is crucial to not let the trail go cold or leave your potential new hire hanging.” Shane believes that it is now time for a discussion on what constitutes a fair wage for a Chef de Partie. “If clients want to attract and retain this talent, the rate should be €15 or €16 per hour, once the chef has completed college and has four years’ practical experience,” he says. “If a business decides to pay a lower rate, there should be something of value on offer for the chef, for example, ongoing training and development to a set standard, where the chef can work their way up to the next level and progress within a predetermined time frame. Employers need to set their employer brand apart from the competition in this environment, in the same way that they differentiate their product and service offer to potential customers.”

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