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Four important skills of executive chefs in hospitality

8 minute read

In today’s competitive hospitality industry, chefs de cuisine need to have more skills than ever before. Knowing how to prepare food and to provide staff the right culinary and operational guidance is not enough.

The internationalization of various hospitality chains, technological innovations and consumers’ increasing interest in leisure all have intensified the competition within the hospitality industry. At the same time, the frontline hospitality staff is rejuvenated the past decades. Consequently, HR managers of hotel, restaurant and bar chains are having a hard time in finding and attracting young capable staff members that also have the ambition and skills to develop themselves into executive chefs.

That’s why a group of university researchers asked for feedback from executive (sous) chefs what a future chef de cuisine should be capable of. The executive (sous) chefs have worked at one or more international hotel chains for at least three years, and served in the hospitality industry for at least 20 years.

The comments of these executive (sous) chefs, which they gave in qualitative interviews, are illustrative for the higher expectations of today’s hospitality market. The researchers summed up the following four quadrants of expected skills, accompanied by quotes of the interviewed chefs.

1. Managerial skills

This includes revenue and performance management, a basic competency that a high-level manager must possess. Revenue and performance management includes analysis and management of income, expenditures and revenue, and performance evaluation.

“The finances at the hotel where I work have their own system. The desired financial statement is created automatically. If we are able to understand and analyze the financial statement, then we can meet the demands of the operation. It actually isn’t that difficult.” (Frank)

Another managerial skill is the ability to implement new plans. In the hospitality industry, fast speed, strict competition and profit result from effective management, and the ability to practically realize the plans of one’s imagination.

“Many chefs can cook delicious meals, but when a request comes from the top, not every person is able to complete it, or rather complete it on time. After a while, one knows who is able to complete the manager’s tasks and has implementation capability. Only people with this ability can efficiently manage operations on a larger scale.” (Gary)

2. Operational skills

We’re talking about professional skills used on the job, such as cooking and meal research abilities, which could be developed through educational training or courses. Development is important, as an executive chef needs to convince others, and should possess a level of cooking that subordinates admire in order to go one step further in managing the kitchen.

“Actually, it is not difficult to reach a certain degree of skill with working in the kitchen. Traditionally, a pupil needs two years and eight months to finish an apprenticeship. At this time, it shows that the pupil is already very skilled at cooking and becoming a chef is not difficult, at least. However, to become an executive chef and lead many people, doing this is definitely not enough.” (Gary)

We’re also talking about material and cost control: The cost of materials constitutes the largest proportion of expenditures in the hospitality industry. Whether or not material and cost control is implemented effectively significantly affects profit.

“Actually, profit in the hospitality industry is just a small percentage. There is a huge difference between good and bad management. The main emphasis in my kitchen is to control materials. My former supervisor even locked-up all the high-end ingredients. If one is able to control the wastage, then profit will be generated. (Gary)

3. Managerial behaviors

We’re talking about soft skills in management that can also be developed through employee development and succession planning.

A pillar of this performance indicator is to be able to stimulate ‘group cooperation’: A good group is able to increase job efficiency. In a high-pressure kitchen, a good team is needed to confront various challenges.

“Employees in the kitchen do not know what those in the serving area experience. Every time a customer returns a dish, the server is always scolded by the chef. Therefore, I asked the chef to go to the serving area to be a server. Once a chef understands that it is not easy to meet the demands of customers, he or she will not get mad when a customer returns a dish, and naturally, the work environment will be harmonious.” (Bob)

Another component is the role model behavior: while working, employees pay attention to whether their supervisor’s behavior is worth learning from and respecting.

"In the early stages, it was very tough for me. Even though there was economic pressure, I had enthusiasm for this profession. If my shift started at ten o’clock, I would go there at six o’clock. Why? At that time business was very good; once we started in the morning at ten, there was not enough time to organize. I was able to take my time and organize by myself. After a while, my subordinates admired me for doing this, and it affected them to some degree." (Ivan)

4. Operational behaviors

The fourth quadrant is operational behaviors, comprising soft competencies needed during business operations. Some people are enthusiastic and good communicators, but they also can be acquired in the long term through employee development.

One component of operational behaviors is keeping abreast industry trends and metrics. Trends and metrics about the ingredients, cooking methods, and also the themes, which are changed often in the hospitality market. One needs to work hard to remain up-to-date with industry trends for better job security.

“Earlier, I spent lots of money on western culinary cook books, and even hired someone to translate for me. I spent so much money for the most current information. Now I spend lots of time searching for updated culinary information on the Internet. It is our responsibility to keep updated about trends.” (Ivan).

Good operational is also reflected by being positive person and having an energetic character: compared with other professions, in the hospitality industry, it takes long to reap the benefits of one’s efforts on the job. Therefore, positive thinking and enthusiasm are essential for succeeding in this industry. Further, sustenance is difficult without the motivation to keep growing and acquiring new skills.

“When you have interest and want to do this job, then no matter what, you will not feel tired. If you think of it as a job or a duty, then it will seem more tiring to you. When we are interviewing people, we are looking for people with enthusiasm. You must be born with this trait; it cannot be taught.” (Gary)

Speakap relieves executive chefs in hospitality

Speakap is the developer of a social platform for internal communication. It offers employees the same experience as their personal social media. The platform ensures more engagement, internal knowledge sharing and consumption of company news. Organizations can brand the platform, by ordering a white-label version. The platform significantly reliefs the challenges that future hospitality executives are facing, by making it easier to coach and inform staff members and structure their work (schedules).

Speakap's mobile app and its push notifications answer an essential need in not only the hospitality market, but also other non-desk sectors such as the retail and blue collar markets. Non-desk employees often do not possess a company email address and do not use a company computer. They are also (continuously) helping consumers in a face-to-face setting. Furthermore they often consist of hourly and parttime workers, which even more complicates the challenge to involve them in internal communications.

Within non-desk sectors, internal communication is a very important driver for engagement. Organizations need engagement to provide a high-level customer experience. Scientific research shows employees having face-to-face contact with customers, like cashiers, waitresses, stewards and child care workers, do not have enough opportunities to share their thoughts and emotions with colleagues. This has significant impact on employee turnover and the level of customer service. Speakap also keys into the media consumption of the younger generations Y and Z, who are used to communicate via social media and therefore expect solutions that facilitate both top-down and bottum-up communication.

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Speakap also provides an integrated solution, that brings together information, knowledge sharing, files and employees. The addition of third-party apps like Trylikes, Afas, Leaplines, Softbrick, SRXP, Dotweb and Sharepoint creates a social environment in which employees can also use solutions such as ERP, expense reporting, e-learning and scheduling tools.

In short time, Speakap has welcomed wonderful customers such as Rituals, Media Markt, Intercontinental Hotels, Bosch, Kinepolis and Schiphol Airport Retail.  Speakap is the winner of the ABN Amro Award 'Best Retail Innovation 2017'. 

On average, 80% of the members are actively using the platform within a month. They log in three times a day.

Engaging non-desk employees

Katy is shaping the new voice of Speakap. When she's not writing for work, she's writing for fun. When she's not writing, then she's probably out looking for the best taco in the city.

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