The 2023 C+RC Salary Survey unveils the profound concerns club chefs have regarding their future in club culinary. As the industry stands at this crossroads, there’s a pressing choice: Continue the status quo and risk neglecting chefs, or reform benefits, compensation packages and work-life balance to enhance their well-being.
“What truly sets my job apart—and what has always attracted me to working in clubs—is the membership,” says Michael A. Beers, Executive Chef and Director of Food and Beverage for Landscapes Golf Management, a Lincoln, Neb.-based golf solutions provider. “Unlike many sectors in the hospitality industry where interactions are merely transactional, here, everything revolves around building and nurturing relationships with our members.”
Beers also highlights a lack of advocacy that chefs do on their own behalf, emphasizing the need for more proactive self-representation.
The survey data, replete with numbers and stats, also narrates stories of dedication, ambition, and notably, uncertainties.
Jeff Kenser, Executive Chef of Columbine Country Club (Littleton, Colo.), expresses his love for his team but voices concerns about the commitment the industry demands.
“Having many food outlets open all of the time is nearly impossible these days with such a tight labor market,” he says, pointing toward the unsustainability of the current business model. “I keep wondering: What business model would be sustainable for clubs in terms of hours of operation while still bringing value to members and staff?”
In response to these critical questions and challenges, this report—and the extended digital version—aim to present these findings, offering a comprehensive view of the current state of the industry and the pressing issues club chefs face. By shedding light on these areas, we hope to catalyze conversations and actions that can lead to positive change for club chefs and the industry at large.
Experience, Age, and the Call for Diversity
The 2023 C+RC Salary Survey paints a vivid demographic picture. Most respondents are full-time, seasoned professionals, indicating a wealth of experience anchoring the industry. However, the age distribution leans toward mid-career, suggesting potential challenges in drawing younger talent.
“If the club industry adopted modern practices from independent restaurants, like four-day work weeks, it would address the work-life balance issues pushing young chefs away,” says Beers.
Additionally, a notable male dominance in responses highlights a need for greater inclusivity and diverse representation in the club industry.
While a significant portion of chefs earn between $80,000 and $119,999, the data further reveals that a meager 9% receive signing bonuses, emphasizing the disparity in upfront financial incentives. Moreover, the survey indicates a potential oversight in benefits, which can be as critical as base salary in attracting and
Gabriel Maldonado, CEC, CCA, Executive Chef at Shady Oaks Country Club in Ft. Worth, Texas, pinpoints another aspect: the role of mentorship. He believes that many chefs, especially those early in their careers, might not be aware of industry standards or even what’s negotiable. “Without guidance, many won’t know it’s okay to ask,” Maldonado observes, highlighting a gap in knowledge and advocacy.
Adam Deviney, CEC, Executive Chef of The Country Club of North Carolina (Pinehurst, N.C.), further sheds light on the value of experience over formal education in determining compensation. “Experience plays a critical role because it involves practical knowledge and the ability to apply it effectively,” Deviney notes.
However, he also underscores the industry’s responsibility. While he feels supported in his current role, he believes continued evolution is crucial for clubs to remain competitive with other industries. “The days of offering unlivable wages for experience are fading,” he says. “To attract talent, we need to improve quality of life and monetary compensation.”
Club Chefs’ Plea for Support
Despite their tireless dedication, a staggering 68% of chefs find their work-life balance lacking, with many rating it as either “fair” or “poor.”
Delving deeper, we find an industry that, in many ways, seems to leave its culinarians in the lurch. A telling 74% report that their clubs lack concrete policies to foster a balanced professional life. This absence becomes even more glaring when juxtaposed with the fact that nearly 44% of chefs often or frequently feel the crushing weight of excessive work hours or demands.
“It’s not just about the hours that lower-tier employees work; it’s the ripple effect when they’re absent,” says Kenser. “The management team often has to fill in, leading to increased burnout. A more balanced weekly schedule would ensure that management doesn’t have to sacrifice their days off to cover shifts.”
Jeff Perez, Executive Chef of Fairview Country Club in Greenwich, Conn., sees this as a pivotal moment for the industry: “Clubs, given their resources, can address the talent challenge by offering better compensation and work-life balance.”
Dedication and Doubt
While 88% of respondents envision themselves in the industry five years from now, this commitment wanes slightly over a decade, dropping to 72%. This diminishing long-term allegiance hints at evolving aspirations or concerns about the industry’s future landscape.
Deviney reflects on this sentiment, noting that it’s not just about navigating the present; it’s about envisioning a future within the industry.
Club chefs’ passion runs deep, but the clarity of their career trajectory can sometimes blur. Clubs must recognize and address this by carving out clearer paths and opportunities for chefs to thrive and evolve.
“While I haven’t contemplated leaving the club industry, I have considered transitioning from the kitchen to club management,” Deviney says.
“I will continue in this industry as long as the salary, benefits and quality of life continue to improve.”