Chefs are the soul of your kitchen, the dollar to your desserts and dictate how great (or bad!) feedback from customers will be. So pay them what they deserve!
They’re worth more than minimum wage, and if you want to keep a hold of them then let them know this via their paycheck. Pay them the right amount - but how much is this? According to Payscale Human Capital, the average pay for a Kitchen Chef is AU$20.75 per hour, this gives an average salary of between AU$35,000 and AU$56,000.
Surprisingly, it’s not always the case that the more experienced Chefs are on a higher wage.* How hefty their wage packet is depends on the size, location and type of your business, Chef duties, and whether your Chef is at the bottom of the pecking order or the most Senior Chef in the kitchen.
You CAN put a price on passion
Only a certain sort of person ventures up the career path of a Chef. The long, antisocial hours, exhaustion, and unflattering uniform gets replaced. Remember when they said, “You can’t put a price on passion”. Well you can!
Quality people means quality pay packets
Cheaper Chefs generally mean cheaper quality work, which cheapens your brand as a whole. So if you want ground-breaking customer service then reward your Chefs with a hefty pay packet.
Skills come in all shapes and sizes, and can affect the amount Chefs should be paid. Those qualifications and years of learning special skills really do pay off in a Chef’s wage, but are an investment well spent. In fact, 'Chef' is so much of a super skill that it is on the Australian skilled occupation list. Note to self, this doesn’t include positions in fast food or takeaway food service.
Location, location, location
Recent studies show that location can be a huge deciding factor in the amount you should pay your Chefs. According to Living in Australia, a Head Chef in Perth is paid an average of AUD$5,000 more than the same role in Melbourne.
2015 Chef salaries, by Living in Australia
The National average pay for a Chef (across all experience levels and locations) is AU$44,951.* But Perth and Adelaide-based Chefs are pocketing a salary of between 8% and 9% higher than this. Melbourne or Brisbane-based Chefs however are on a wage just shy of the National average (an average of 1% less).
Statistics from PayScale
What the experts say...
We spoke to Christaki Frangeskou, Deputy Manager at Mitchells & Butlers - the largest operator of restaurants, pubs and bars in the UK. He said, “The question - What to pay a chef? - is a tough one. It varies everywhere and much of that is to do with what is considered a skill or ability, and there are varied opinions on what constitutes as a skill or ability that makes this such a hard thing to define.
Christaki Frangeskou, Deputy Manager at Mitchells & Butlers
If I had a chef in a premium restaurant with high quality, fresh food cooking to a technically challenging specification, then I'd expect to pay that chef more, and to pay them in line with the cost of the dishes. If it were a chef in a kitchen that spent most of their time reheating ready-made meals then I would expect to pay them less. However, the difficulty comes with the volume of food. Is it fair to say that a chef who works in a kitchen that reheats food, but is constantly working in a highly stressful environment should be paid less?"
Frangeskou believes that customer expectations can dictate the amount you pay your Chef. "The expectation of the customer is also a factor. If you were a customer paying £5 (approx.. AU$10) for a meal, you would expect it out on your table pretty soon, whereas for meals that are £30 (approx. AU$60), you would expect it to take longer as there's much more going into it.
But if a Chef has 20 meals to make in a quick amount of time, and each costs a customer £5 (approx.. AU$10), then surely this chef is skilled in some way! How much you should pay your Chefs is not an easy question to answer. In reality, it's bespoke to the business. The cost of losing a chef is high, so paying a chef needs a lot of thought. It's an investment, both in your business and your team.”