The co-owner of a Leamington-based catering company has found himself at an impasse because he cannot find any chefs to join his team - which he needs for his business to grow.
Richard and Claudia Bramble launched their new private chef and catering service - called Bramble Dining - just weeks before the first lockdown.
Despite a challenging start, the business thrived and grew but now Richard said he is facing problems with being able to grow further due to not being able to find a chef for months.
"Despite Covid, we did really well to grow the business given the circumstances all businesses were facing," he said.
"Then this year all the hard work paid dividends and the business is going extremely well for us.
"At the moment we are having to turn work away and we are trying to recruit another chef - then we can take on more as the business grows but we are really struggling to find a chef.
"I know that the whole industry is struggling.
"I would like to employ someone local but it seems that young people don't want to go into the trade or that people don't want to because of long hours and hard work and stress.
"What we are doing in the private dining - it's all about work-life balance.
"I am going to have to go onto websites and employ a chef outside of the area - which I don't want to do.
"I am a Leamington boy myself and would rather employ and support local people."
Richard thinks that the pandemic is one of the reasons why he has been struggling to find someone for the role.
"I think a lot of people have taken the time during the pandemic to assess things. When you are suddenly at home you realise how much time you spend at work and see it's not financially beneficial for the family.
"I know some people have now gone to stack shelves because they were made redundant or the restaurant where they worked has now closed.
"I think people have realised when they step back from the industry they see they have sacrificed a lot of time.
"It's hard work - I was doing 12 hours every day for four months before I took a step back."
Richard is keen to emphasis that working in the catering business can be different to being in restaurant.
"We’re not offering a job where you’re working 70 hours a week, it’s the ideal chef job 37 to 40 hours a week with good pay and you don’t have to work every weekend.
"You can also make great connections while out on the job.
"The one thing we are asking is that applicants have a vehicle they can drive."
As well as having recruitment issues, Richard is also fearful of the future of Leamington town centre.
"I think a lot of damage is being done by large chains - they dominate the market.
"I started working in restaurants when I was 15 as a KP when I was at school and when my dad was a chef there was Rhubard, Wildes, Oscar's and Alistair's. All independent businesses and there were was a real sense of community.
"Everyone got a slice of the pie.
"Now Leamington has all these chain restaurants and independents are struggling. You look at the food quarter and it's all chains - except one independent.
"The council should be supporting young people in food businesses and give them help.
"A lot of people have gone to Digbeth Dining or Fargo Village because they can't afford a shop front in Leamington,
"People leave because they can't afford the rates and soon we will end up as a ghost town and not even the chains will want to be here.
"I have looked at opening a restaurant in town but the rates are so high and we would need support to open.
"You end up having to put your life savings into to to try and make it work and then there is the risk of having a big chain opening next door - it's not worth it."
If anyone is interested in more information about the chef role at Bramble Dining they should contact Richard using the website: https://brambledining.com/