After months of hoping to recruit new chefs, a troubled restauranteur fears his Highland business “just won’t survive”.
Husband and wife team Steve and Claire Anderson have owned Anderson’s Restaurant in Boat of Garten, Strathspey for the last 15 years.
The Andersons put out an advert for a sous chef and a chef de parties to join their team three months ago, and have since had no luck recruiting new staff.
Weathering the storm
Mr Anderson, originally from Kelso, said he fears he will have to make the difficult decision of sacrificing the standard of food they’ve been known to offer, and work with reduced kitchen staff.
He said: “We built up a really good reputation in the last 15 years. We’re number one on Tripadvisor for the area and it’s been really hard work to get it to that stage.
“Then Covid hit and we had to put all of our staff on furlough.”
In response, Mr Anderson’s brother set up a wood-fired pizza station outside the restaurant as a way to keep the business afloat.
He added: “We felt like we weathered the storm and at the beginning of February, I started to recruit chefs ahead of reopening.
“I had practically no applications for the position available.”
The restaurant requires two extra chefs to meet the covers they were at pre-Covid.
Mr Anderson said he secured a head chef “by the skin of his teeth” and currently helps him in the kitchen.
“We will have a very busy season, with 70 to 80 covers, seven nights a week from May until October,” he said.
“I cannot do that right now with one chef, we can do 30 covers maximum at the moment.
“It would be frustrating to survive the pandemic just to close down.”
Chefs 😔, where are all the chefs?? Hospitality is in trouble. I thought advertising and recruiting from February would…
‘Cook with our heads and not with our hearts?’
The father-of-four said during the last year many left the industry, with chefs he knows changing career paths or picking up different trades.
He added: “From my perspective, lots of chefs that I know have jumped ship and taken up 0ther trades because of the pandemic.
“They’re also migrating around the country and expecting staff accommodation, I couldn’t offer that.”
The restauranteur said part of the difficulty of recruiting kitchen staff is finding or providing rented accommodation because of the rural location – a cost not many small business owners can shoulder.
He also believes the lack of response has to do with the opening and closing of the sector, where chefs are “happy to stay in the place they’re in now” in the event there’s another lockdown.
He said: “There’s also just not many apprentices coming through the ranks.
“And with Brexit, in the last five years, a lot of our Spanish, Eastern European and Italian friends have now gone home.
“So many might not see a point in staying, we have lost so many foreign kitchen staff because of this and they really are the backbone.”
Mr Anderson added that “without a shadow of a doubt” the Covid-19 crisis is the hardest thing he has experienced in his 15 years of business.
He said: “I’m left with the dilemma: do I reevaluate and hire fewer chefs, and not produce the high standard of food we have become known for and cook with our heads and not with our hearts?”