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‘Back of house’ pay leaps as ‘front of house’ declines

Published:  19 February, 2019

Average salaries for chefs and kitchen employees in London’s top eateries increased by 14.8% in 2018, according to new research by The Change Group.

The increase is the equivalent of a £4,215 pay increase in one year, said the luxury hospitality recruiter, adding that as a result average pay for a hospitality employee in London working back of house now stands at £32,674 a year. In 2017, back of house salaries increase 3.5%.

This is in contrast to front of house salary, which decreased for the second consecutive year, down 3.7%, or £1,168, to £30,051 per year.

Still the lowest of the three groups, at just over £29,672 per year, average annual salaries for bar and pub employees increased 4.5%, or £1,274, during 2018, according to the research.

As a result of these changes, back of house salaries are now the highest in London, £2,623 more than average front of house salaries and £3,002 more than the take-home pay for most bar and pub staff, according to The Change Group, which said back of house salaries were the lowest two years ago, with chefs typically earning £4,767 less than front of house employees and £794 less than the average wage for pub and bar workers.

A factor in the rise of back of house salaries could be an increasing willingness to negotiate pay, it said.

“A recent Change Group survey into attitudes on pay among 257 people working in the industry shows hospitality workers are much more confident about negotiating pay, and many are receiving large annual increases,” said Jim O’Brien, director, The Change Group.

“There has been a significant adjustment in chef salaries over the past two years, which is a good thing. Our research shows more and more employees are asking for regular pay increases, and not waiting for a promotion or moving to a new job, before asking for more money.

“The decline in average front of house salaries is partly due to the fact that businesses are creating more opportunities for junior employees. Overall, we are seeing an increase in the number of candidates registering we us.”

The survey revealed 58% of respondents had negotiated a pay rise with their employer that was above what the employer was planning to offer them. While typically hospitality workers negotiate a pay increase when moving jobs (28.8%) and at a promotion (29.5%), almost one in five (19%) negotiated pay increases at regular intervals. 45.1% had negotiated a salary increase in excess of 10% and 11% had achieved a pay increase over 20%.”

It also showed a broad spread in the level of pay increases that employees were receiving, with one in eight (12.5%) getting £3,000 or more – and one in 15 employees receiving over £4,500, while at the other end of the spectrum, one in four hospitality workers received less than £1,000 in their previous pay review.