All of us in the catering trade know that money is not the driving factor behind our decision. A chance to do what you love for a career is a reward in itself; but what about when that isn’t enough?
Enjoying our career and living each day with passion is important, but unfortunately there can come a time when passion simply doesn’t pay the bills. Fear Not. The large variables within the world of catering mean that there are many steps a chef can take to help themselves earn more money.
These tips aim to open us up to exploring different avenues in order to gain more money as a chef, be that in our current job or with a new role elsewhere. So without further ado let’s get into the 7 tips for chefs to make more money!
Build Your Own Personal Brand.
Building a personal brand is really important for chefs in this modern age of social media. A chef that can bring a following to the restaurant they work in will be able to charge more for their services.
Instagram is a great platform for chefs to showcase their talents as it is so visual. It will not happen overnight, but by slowly building up our following, especially those in the local community who are most likely to visit the restaurant we work in, we are making ourselves more valuable to the employer.
By creating a situation where by customers are coming to the restaurant to eat our food, if we then leave due to low wages, chances are the customers will follow. This mentality will encourage our employer to reward us more fairly for our efforts.
When a chef enters a cooking competition or demonstration, they are show casing their skills to their own employer as well as the wider catering community.
If we enter a competition and then place well, it gives us leverage to ask our employer for extra money, either as a bonus or as higher wages.
This can be achieved at all levels, we do not have to wait until we are Head chef! There are many competitions such as ‘young chef of the year‘ that are aimed towards beginner chefs. Simply taking part really does help bolster our C.V and gets us noticed as a valuable employee.
Negotiate a Bonus Structure
Negotiating a bonus structure can be a very fair way for a chef to ask for additional pay which is difficult for the owner to refuse. By requesting a bonus we are effectively asking for a small share of the profits.
To go about this we put forward a case such as; if the profit at the end of the month is x amount then I should receive x amount as a reward for all my hard work.
This can be more difficult for the lower level members of the kitchen. However, a Head chef can often negotiate a kitchen bonus for the whole team, of which we would be entitled to a slice of the pie!
Take an Hourly Paid Job
Working as a chef requires long hours. This can be financially unfair when on a salary as we are not compensated for all the hours worked. However, by taking an hourly paid job the long hours that are standard within the industry actually work to our benefit.
It cannot be underestimated how financially beneficial an hourly paid chef job is. Even if the hourly rate isn’t particularly high, it is more than made up for by the volume of hours worked.
Another perk is that often the owner is keen not to have us in work unnecessarily, as we are an extra expense on the wage bill.
If the bookings are looking quiet for that evening; the chef getting the night off is the one who costs extra to be there! There is no financial benefit to sending the salary chefs home. Unfair yes, but it is the reality of how it works.
Become an Agency Chef
Agency chefs are like the substitute teachers of the catering world. Whenever a restaurant has a staffing problem they ring an agency to arrange cover. The agency sends one of their chefs for an agreed amount of time.
An agency chef can find themselves working anywhere from a couple of days to a few months at the same job. If we join an agency we must be willing to travel around for work and be confident in our ability, as we often are called in because a kitchen is extra busy.
Adapting to each individual kitchen can prove tricky but often the other chefs are more than happy to help. The financial rewards are very good, as the hourly wage paid to these substitute chefs is high. Accommodation is often also included so the living costs are minimal.
Change Career Direction
There are many career paths open for chefs ranging from traditional restaurants to working on a luxury yacht. Keeping an eye out for interesting opportunities is not only financial beneficial but leads to some great new experiences.
A friend of mine left the kitchen we worked in to go cook on a cruise ship. We stayed in touch and he informed me (rather smugly) that it was the most financially rewarding job he’d ever taken.
For some this may seem like an extreme way of earning extra money. However, for others, taking the time required to work their way slowly up the career ladder is a little soul-less. For this group of chefs, the doors are wide open to all kinds of opportunities.
Self-employed chefs build up a large base of kitchens that they work for. They then organise directly with these employers regarding when they will be available to work, effectively becoming their own agency.
This can work really well for some chefs, particually those that live in busy cities or are willing to travel long distances for work.
It can be a difficult route to take as we are effectively becoming our own business. Keeping the various kitchens happy and trying to juggle the various work-loads can be difficult.
Being a self-employed chef is especially beneficial in places with a lot of seasonal fluctuation in customer numbers. If a venue knows it will be at its busiest during the summer months they are willing to pay a high wage to have us there for the busy period, knowing they do not then have to keep us employed during the off season.
This allows us to earn a lot of money during the busy season and then move on and pick up jobs in the quieter months.
Some people may not be as suited to this unpredictable income, but for others it can be a great way to earn substantial money and have ownership over which restaurants we choose to work for.
To Sum Up
These tips focus on the longer term strategy to earn more money as a chef. For those that need extra money quickly, really the only two options open are to ask for a pay rise or take a higher paying job elsewhere.
When going for the pay rise we should be methodical and list all the reasons why we deserve it, highlighting the additional responsibilities we have been doing etc.
By taking the longer term view as shown with the tips above we can lessen the need to rely on our employers kindness and instead take our financial future into our own hands!