This thesis examines job quality among chefs in Australian restaurants. The restaurant industry has expanded significantly over the last two decades in response to growing consumer demand, yet it faces significant challenges related to the recruitment and retention of chefs. Existing research on the causes of these issues has been piecemeal. Consequently, this thesis draws on emerging job quality literature as its conceptual basis, which refers to the characteristics of a job that are conducive to worker wellbeing, commonly including work organisation, skill and training, progression opportunities, pay and benefits, job security, and working hours. This literature has raised the importance of workers’ life stage in shaping subjective assessments and the impact of market segment and organisational size on job quality.
This research is based on a comparative case study of chefs’ job quality at six mid-upper market segment restaurants, involving semi-structured interviews with 36 chefs, managers, and industry experts. The findings revealed that, objectively, the quality of jobs for chefs are poor overall, with subjective assessment varying over the life course and impacting recruitment and retention. Some job quality dimensions varied across the case study sites, however there was no simple relationship between job quality overall and market segment or organisational size. These findings suggest that addressing job quality will improve recruitment and retention outcomes, as well as worker wellbeing, yet the relevant job quality dimensions differ according to workers’ life stage. Furthermore, life stage is a broader notion than has been traditionally conceived, encompassing age and career stage in addition to family stage. Finally, the factors that shape job quality are complex and not easily explained by variables such as market segment or organisational size, with interventions required at the workplace, regulatory, and policy level.