Armidale is on the banks of the Dumaresq Creek in the Northern Tablelands, New South Wales. It is there you will find the Armidale Ex-Services Memorial Club and its CEO, Scott Sullivan.
In May 2017 I met Scott whilst speaking at a Club Manager’s Association conference in Cessnock, NSW. Like most in the room, the constant battle of sourcing chefs had left him frustrated and jaded.
Unlike many that day, Scott had already commenced the process of registering the business as a Standard Business Sponsor. He’d always had local chefs but times were changing and while sourcing chefs remained an ongoing issue, retaining them was far more pressing.
“Before TSS we were struggling particularly as a rural business. We had 3 full time chefs and a pool of 6 casuals for quite a while, but that pool had almost completely dried up” says Scott.
“All the casuals had left to work in cafes where they get a better lifestyle. They mostly work Monday to Friday having their weekends and nights off. We had to look at alternatives”.
Having assessed all of his recruitment options, Scott found that the daunting offshore solution would be easier and more beneficial than he ever expected.
“We were looking for alternatives, one of which was using contract staff but that was expensive. We attended a conference and listened to Andrew talk about recruiting chefs from overseas”
“It all sounded really easy as they could facilitate the entire recruitment process as well”.
Through TSS, Scott went on to recruit a Sri Lankan chef – Pradeep Gedara - who had worked in numerous roles in his home country and across the UAE. What surprised Scott most, however, was the ease in which the recruitment process was managed.
“Having suitable candidates presented to us, arranging interviews and lodging visas through to approval stage was just so easy. We didn’t even need to worry about arranging the chefs travel as TSS did all of that as well”
“We really didn’t need to do anything” says Scott.
Six weeks after Pradeep’s visa was lodged, he was hard at work in Scott’s kitchen and after navigating what was a challenging transition period, the club has gone from strength to strength with big wins in both production and staff morale.
Pradeep is no longer the only visa holder at the Armidale Ex-Services Club. In fact Pradeep had been so successful that visa holders now fill the majority of positions in a kitchen. Retention issues are a thing of the past.
“I would say now that around 80% of our chefs are on a visa. Offering positions to overseas chefs has solved so many problems. They are committed, reliable, respectful and have a work ethic we just couldn’t find” says Scott.
“I would encourage all organisations to look beyond what they think is a complex process because it is so much easier than you think. I can’t fault the chefs we have from overseas. It changed our business”.