The Real Cost of Losing a Restaurant Chef

Thursday 12 November, 2015

How much do you think the cost of losing a Chef would be for your restaurant?


Forget airy-fairy estimates, we want numbers! We went on a quest to put a number on what losing a Chef would cost your restaurant, a number as clear-cut as a butcher’s rump medallion.


I hope you’re sitting down, because the truth isn’t pretty. 


The Hospitality game is a shifty business when reliability of staff come into play. Staff quit. Staff leave. Staff screw you over in the middle of service. It’s a fact. The reasons why? Well that’s another story altogether: they can’t hack the hours; they’re not built for it physically, mentally, emotionally (yes, emotionally!); they feel undervalued. 

But have you thought about the actual cost losing a Chef would be to your restaurant, café, or hotel? After all, they are one of the most important figures in the kitchen, which could mean thousands of dollars for just a couple of weeks! But what is the actual figure? 


We tracked down restaurant managers across Sydney and Brisbane to bring you an answer to the ever-burning question, “How much would it cost your restaurant to lose a Chef?”  


Tayler Hill, Founder of Waffle On, a new breakfast franchise in Brisbane, gave us an exclusive on how much losing a Chef would cost his business. Typical breakfast service at Waffle On means only one Chef is needed. But no Chef doesn’t just mean no waffles; it also means drastic long-term losses.

Waffles at Waffle On in Brisbane

Waffles at Waffle On in Brisbane


Tayler revealed the three biggest business burns if a Chef were to leave. “The biggest stinger would be the cost of cover for the absence of the Chef, which I would price between $800 and $1,100 depending on the position of the cover.

“Secondly, would be the wages forked out for training a new Chef, which would initially involve shadowing another Chef. He valued this at the same figure - between $800 and $1,100, assuming that you can fully menu train a capable Chef in two days with busy service nights.”

Tayler said, “The Chef in training would have to be supervised at all times, and would naturally be less efficient than the previous Chef. This means lower quality output which would make the restaurant as a whole less profitable.”

“The final blow would be the wages paid out for the interviewing process, which would be around $350 for two days of interviewing.”


So this comes to around $2,350 per week, and this is before considering less profit output down to changes in the quality of food service.


Cosmopolitan Café in Sydney enjoys a strong turnover of customers seven days a week until closing time at 2am. General Manager James Tsolakis accepts that it is almost impossible to quantify the cost of losing a restaurant Chef.

James said, “In my restaurant, Chefs govern the kitchen. The Chefs create the menus, and are responsible for the quality of service and therefore customer satisfaction. Our Head Chef works 50 hours per week, so it’s hard to quantify the loss of such a priceless team member.”

Cosmopolitan Cafe, Sydney

Cosmopolitan Cafe, Sydney


According to James, cost is determined by the size of a restaurant - the general rule of thumb is that the bigger the business, the higher the salary paid to a Chef. “Other key costs to consider are exit pay to the departing Chef (un-used holiday pay and termination pay), and recruitment costs. If I were to hire a Chef through traditional recruitment methods this would likely be around $1,000, and employing a recruitment firm could be as high as $15,000.”

“Hiring a temporary Chef would cost around 50% more than the wage paid for the Chef being replaced, but is essential so that the rest of the kitchen team are not stretched too far. Training a new Chef would likely take around 2-4 weeks”.

This is something Sam Ergerton, General Manager at Merivale's Palmer & Co., agreed with. Sam gave us his run-down on the cost of losing not just any Chef, but the Head Chef. Sam pins around $2,000 per week as the cost of training and induction for a new Head Chef, with a handover period of 2 and 4 weeks. So that could mean around $8K just for training and induction! 

The team at Palmer and Co.

The team at Palmer and Co., part of the Merivale chain, Sydney 


So so far, BIG numbers if you lose a Chef! 


Tayler offers a cost-saving technique, “One way you can slim down costs is by paying an hourly rate to temporary Chefs and getting the most out of them for a minimum number of hours. Chefs are normally paid a salary, but Chefs in training might be paid at an hourly flat rate.”

Sam said restaurant managers should consider crucial losses in trade. “These would likely be between 10% and 50% of overall trade, depending on who, and how experienced, the replacement Chef is.” 

Chefs in your restaurant will move on, move up the ladder elsewhere or move out of the industry altogether. You can’t ignore it, but you can prepare by having a better understanding of the true cost - not a guesstimate plucked out of thin air. 


Our research so far tells us that the cost of losing a Chef could be anything from $2,350 per week to over $15,000


So we ask you again, “How much do you think the cost of losing a Chef would be for your restaurant?” (enter in comment box below).


Heather Doherty

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