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What is Christmas like for catering recruitment agencies?
'Tis the season to be jolly. This rings true for most of us around the festive period. We're into December, the tree is up, presents bought (who are we kidding?), Christmas playlist has been compiled, and there's light at the end of this year's working tunnel.
However, this feeling of relaxation and excitement is not the case for certain sectors of recruitment. For catering and hospitality recruitment agencies in particular, rather than winding down, the pressure and intensity is cranking up.
What is the festive period like for catering recruitment agencies?
Catering recruitment agencies and their workload
Winter is coming. Okay, it's not quite as dramatic as that for recruitment agencies in hospitality and catering! However, it's fair to say that throughout Christmas and new year, their phones will be ringing much more frequently than during the rest of the year.
With approximately 6% of the UK's workforce, the catering and hospitality sector is a popular one, so it's perhaps no surprise that it contains a large number of employers who, at particular times of the year, see demand for their services increase.
Bookings are high, everyone is busy and pressure is relentless.
And at what time of the year are people at their collective merriest? Christmas of course!
The Christmas parties, end of year gatherings, extra demand in restaurants from people eating out, sporting events, gigs. It all builds up and invariably, it means that employers are in need of Christmas staff to ensure that these gatherings and social happenings can be catered for and managed.
For example, a racecourse might put on another meeting. With meals and hospitality included for some racegoers, an extra chef could be required.
It's a thirsty business, watching your betting money disappear down the drain. Who's going to serve you in your hour of need? Bar staff supplied by the recruitment agency of course.
We're one of the only countries in Europe that has football on during Christmas and New Year. The hospitality tickets can involve the three-course meal treatment to give consolation after the crushing disappointment of your afternoon's viewing.
As a reward for a hard year at work, you may find yourself at a work's Christmas do, enjoying an evening of entertainment, food, drink and all the merriment you can manage. For these events, waiters and waitresses will be needed to cater for the volume of partygoers.
In the run-up to Christmas, we get very busy because ultimately, our clients have a lot of bookings and events.
Therefore, finding solutions for employers and their need to fill Christmas temp jobs is left in the expert hands of catering and hospitality recruiters.
How does workload increase for catering and hospitality recruiters?
It's not too hard to guess then, that the answer to this question is 'quite a lot'.
One of the agencies we spoke to was Athena Recruiting Services Ltd, who specialise in hospitality and catering as well as other sectors.
Their Director, Denise Gilmore said that their work "increases by 40% for temporary chefs and also for waiting staff and kitchen porters."
It is a clear indication of the amount of extra bookings that catering and hospitality recruiters face as we get to the end of the year.
Tennyson Recruitment provides candidates for a range of sectors including catering, and James Gardiner, Catering & Hospitality Manager, explained that for his company, a change in demand is felt as December approaches.
We start to build our staff numbers. On our books we look to recruit for an extra 300 employees in the areas we have clients, so should employers request more staff, we have a large database of candidates that is ready to go.
"In the run-up to Christmas, we get very busy because ultimately, our clients have a lot of bookings and events," he said.
"Generally, demand changes in the last week of November, right up until the first week in January because you also have your New Year's Eve bookings."
For Athena Recruiting Services, they notice the demand for Christmas jobs increase around the middle of October.
Elsewhere, Catermatch Solutions, an agency that offers staffing solutions to a range of catering, hospitality and kitchen environments, notice a rise in demand at the end of September, gradually rising before the clamour for seasonal employees really kicks in.
Systems are already in place but we increase e-marketing, blanket texts, pre-bookings and a forward planning approach to incorporate forecast demand.
What procedures do catering recruitment agencies put in place?
During December, recruitment agencies will often field calls from clients desperate for staff such as Sous Chefs, Head Chefs, Bar Staff, Waiters, Waitresses, Catering Assistants, Kitchen Porters, Cleaners and Hotel Staff.
With this in mind, and the knowledge that many existing candidates will already be engaged with other job commitments, it is vital that procedures are in place.
Imagine the blind panic if recruitment agencies were reactive to these needs rather than proactive. Carnage.
Therefore, the catering and hospitality recruiters preach the value of planning well in advance.
Catermatch Solutions' Company Director, Adrian Taberner, pre-empts the Christmas rush by putting a number of measures in place so that when the calls come in, the company can act decisively.
What type of jobs are these students looking for? You guessed it - temporary. It's a match made in heaven.
He said: "Due to the constant steady increase, we are preparing all the time. Systems are already in place but we increase e-marketing, blanket texts, pre-bookings and a forward planning approach to incorporate forecast demand."
Maintaining high levels of customer service is important too - again, anticipating the number of staff that will be required is key for catering recruitment agencies. It is an approach taken by Athena, who "touch base with clients in early October via email and text."
This again makes sure that when the inevitable rush commences, agencies know what their clients need.
To ensure a successful Christmas period though, agencies also need to make sure candidates are ready and waiting.
How do catering recruiters make sure candidates are in place?
The rush is coming, so it's your job to make sure you're prepared for all eventualities. Therefore, building staff numbers alongside touching base with employers is important.
It's a thirsty business, watching your betting money disappear down the drain. Who's going to serve you in your hour of need? Bar staff supplied by the recruitment agency.
For Tennyson Recruitment, the early planning involves building up candidate numbers in time for the Christmas job rush. James Gardiner told us that this is a crucial part of the company's build up to December.
"We start to build our staff numbers, on our books we look to recruit for an extra 300 employees in the areas we have clients, so should employers request more staff, we have a large database of candidates that is ready to go and we put the training procedures in place so that when December comes, all staff are able to do exactly what they need to."
So, you've got candidates in place, but what type of candidates do you try to attract?
Hmm, where can you find staff at short notice, out of work? Students of course. The first semester is over but the next loan installment doesn't drop until mid-January. It's the ideal time to work.
Which type of jobs crop up around this time of high demand? Temporary ones, of course. What type of jobs are these students looking for? You guessed it - temporary. It's a match made in heaven.
Generally, demand changes in the last week of November, right up until the first week in January because you also have your New Year's Eve bookings.
All the agencies we spoke to target students to counter the sharp rise in temporary positions that occurs towards Christmas.
Useful approaches in this regard include: Working in partnership with universities (Athena work with the University of Essex).Targeting students and encouraging them to register because they are a reliable source of recruitment.Offering the national living wage - it will guarantee stronger staff can be attracted.
How stressful is the festive period for recruitment agencies?
As we've seen, the work is hectic, something confirmed by Adrian Taberner, who said it's such a stressful period because "bookings are high, everyone is busy and pressure is relentless."
However, working as a team, delegating where necessary to make sure all clients are happy, ensures the operation runs smoothly.
For Tennyson Recruitment, they accept that there's an "element of risk" because all the pre-planning in the world doesn't guarantee a return on investment but by being ready, it means that happy clients return in their droves to use the recruiter's services.
That old adage rings true: fail to prepare, prepare to fail. This can't be highlighted any greater than during Christmas when catering recruitment agencies know there will be huge demand for christmas temp jobs and other vacancies.
However, despite the knowledge that it is going to be a busy time for agencies, Denise at Athena points out that for their company, there's no better reward than making sure all clients are catered for.
"It's rewarding more than stressful - clients are happy and chefs are earning money over the Christmas period."
We couldn't put it better.
Written by John Train