There's a grey area when it comes to staging in the hospitality industry. In this article we are going to cover how to get a stage, what to expect and what responsibility the employer has.
“Staging is an unpaid internship test when a cook or chef works briefly, for free, (or to gain a position) in another chef's kitchen to learn and be exposed to new techniques and cuisines. The term originates from the French word ‘stagiaire’ meaning trainee, apprentice or intern.”
The term can also apply to an individual who wants FOH experience too.
Nowadays this form of work experience serves two very good purposes.
- It allows individuals the chance to gain experience in a place that they admire whilst working in another place/studying etc. This gateway experience can often help individuals decide whether it would be something they want to pursue long term.
- The establishment is able to benefit from some 'free labour'.
For those looking to stage:
What is considered good practice when you are applying to stage in a restaurant and how do you do it?
- Contact restaurants/ food businesses that you like/ admire or could see yourself working in. Try to keep the message snappy and to the point.
- Do this either via email, its ok if they don't respond the first time round. No reply is nothing personal, its usually due to them being really busy! Don't hesitate to try emailing more than once
- Approaching the team directly during a non busy period with your contact details and your availability can work quite well. Perhaps visit after lunch service.
- Be prepared to ask multiple places as a few of them may not reply
- You could either ask for 1 day, or a week. Alternatively 1 day a week for a month etc
Once you have a stage what should you do/expect?
- Show up on time!
- Wear comfortable shoes, if you have chef shoes wear those. If not trainers with a good grip on the bottom work well
- Take a notepad and a pen with you, ask permission before writing recipes/notes. (Most places are usually open and ok with this)
- If you have a set of knives take those with you.
- If you have a chefs jacket/trousers take those or if you don't ask beforehand if they can provide uniform.
- Listen and ask questions if you're unsure about something (ask all the questions – it’ll help you so much and reduce the risk of error).
- You will typically be given menial tasks to start off with, there's nothing wrong with this. The team need to informally judge your skill set. Depending on how long you are there will depend on the tasks you get given.
- Observe and absorb as much info as possible!
- Staging is also a great opportunity to ask for some honest feedback from someone you admire. Well given feedback is critical to your development.
- Bear in mind that kitchens (if your work is chef related) are fast paced environments, therefore any quick answers or lack of personal interaction is not usually rude or personally aimed against you!
For restaurants looking to take on stages:
What should you do and what is expected of you if you are taking on a stagiere?
- Clear and effective communication. Give them timings (start and finish times), notes on uniform and what to bring. This is also good practice for any new employees.
- Introduce them to the team on their first day and give them a point of contact if they need anything (this could be the Head/Sous chef or restaurant/assistant manager).
- Check in with them and ask how their first day was. Remember that sometimes these stagieres can turn into full time staff so good impressions go both ways.
- Make sure they are offered a break in between any 8 hour shift and staff food! Sometimes people who are new to the industry hesitate to ask for a break or food - we were all there once!
- (A gentle note/reminder) The industry needs more staff, it’s our responsibility to improve the conditions so people feel like it’s an appealing industry to be in. Giving off good impressions (authentic ones) couldn't be more crucial and important.
- Staging is a good gateway for an individual to gain work experience. Therefore if your establishment doesn't have the capability to take someone on in this capacity that’s also OK!
- Ask for feedback from the stagiere – feedback is a two-way street and you can also learn from this experience.
Now we get to the nitty gritty questions.
Where do we draw the line when it comes to accepting stagieres into businesses? And when does it become exploitation?
Questions to ask yourself.
- Has the individual been helping out for free for an extended period of time?
- Has the help since become work, where the individual is completing tasks in a manner that would typically be paid?
- Is this consensual between the employer and the member of staff? If this is unclear it's best to have the conversation
- Does your business start to depend on free labour to function?
- Have both parties
We need to work collectively to stamp out exploitation in this industry and work towards a place where peoples skills are valued.
Staging is quite unique to our industry and when done properly it’s a huge win win for everyone, so let’s make sure no lines are crossed and continue to use staging to help the hospitality industry thrive.
The Countertalk Team