Since the 1980s, when the United States saw the Japanese food boom, recruiting Japanese sushi chefs has been a difficult task that faces owners of Japanese restaurants. In this article, we will talk about the job market of Japanese sushi chefs, methods of recruiting them, and how to attract potential applicants.
1. Sushi Chefs in Japan
■ The Number of Sushi Chefs in Japan
According to the 2014 survey conducted by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, there were 24,000 sushi restaurants in Japan. As of June 2021, 33,000 sushi restaurants are listed on Tabelog, one of the most popular restaurant review sites in Japan. If we estimate that each restaurant has 2 to 3 sushi chefs on average, presumably 50,000 to 100,000 sushi chefs are working across the nation.
■ Age Groups
Many restaurant owners have a hard time finding sushi chefs in their 20s. In Japan, where the low birth rate and the aging population have been an ongoing problem, the average age of Japanese people in 2021 is almost 50. While there are 2 million people who turn to be 50 years old this year, there are only 1.2 million people who will be 20 years old. In fact, the largest number of the sushi chefs belong to the group of 40s to 60s.
Although the young population is shrinking, the sushi industry itself has been thriving since the 2010s, as Edo-style sushi is being recognized and gourmets are visiting Japan from abroad. It is true that a new generation of sushi chefs is opening their own restaurants in their 30s.
■ Average Income
According to the 2020 income survey by the National Tax Agency, the average annual income of Japanese people is 4.36 million JPY (approx. 40,000 USD). As for sushi chefs, young chefs with less experience earn 2.5 to 3.5 million JPY (approx. 22,000 to 32,000USD)
while the most common salary range is 3 to 5 million JPY (approx. 27,000 to 46,000 USD).
An owner of a popular kaiten-sushi restaurant (a restaurant that serves sushi automatically on a conveyor belt) or an experienced chef at a high-end sushi restaurant can make 6 to 10 million JPY (approx. 55,000 to 91,000 USD).
For your reference, 20 to 30 % of the above income is deducted in Japan.
■ English Proficiency
It is said that 10 to 20% of the Japanese population can speak English, so it is difficult to find a sushi chef who is fluent in English in Japan.
2. How to Hire Japanese Sushi Chefs
■ Job Ads in Magazines / on Websites
The most common way to attract job applicants is to publish ads in Japanese on job websites that focus on the food service industry. Since people in Japan are still relying on print media in many ways, magazines that specialize in job posts are effective as well.
■ Direct Messages through Social Media
You can also find a sushi chef you are interested in and send a direct message to talk personally. In Japan, Facebook is used mostly by people in their 30s to 50s, and people in their 20s and 30s tend to use Instagram.
■ Ads at Culinary Schools
If you are looking for young chefs around their 20s, you may want to post ads at culinary schools.
■ Become a Regular at a Restaurant
Some restaurant owners even become a regular of the restaurant, once they find a sushi chef they want to hire. They visit the restaurant over a long period of time, connect with the chef, and wait till the chef is ready to move onto a next workplace.
■ Participate in Job Fairs
If you want to connect with as many people as possible, we recommend that you join a job fair hosted for the food service industry.
■ Hire a Recruiting Agency
If you are looking for strong candidates, you cannot spend much time in recruiting, or none of your staff members speak Japanese, it is a good idea to outsource the hiring job to a recruiting agency. Generally, the agency charges when you employ the new staff, so you do not need to pay fees until then.
There is a variety of agencies, but if you want to find first-rate chefs, we recommend an agency that specializes in sushi chefs. Regular agencies do not have a database of sushi chefs, and they start to recruit applicants once they are hired. These agencies do not have a network either.
On the other hand, Washoku Agent already has a database of sushi chefs. Even if you do not find a perfect candidate in the database, we can find skilled sushi chefs by using our unique network that regular agencies do not have access to.
3. What Should I Emphasize for Japanese Sushi Chefs?
Anyone would like to be offered a higher salary than the current one. Yet when you talk about salary, you should explain details about gross income, net income after tax deductions, and living expenses of the country to avoid causing a trouble later.
In addition, some chefs want to challenge themselves in an attractive environment abroad, even though that means a lower salary. If you cannot propose a competitive salary, you can look for other features to draw attention.
■ Working Environment and Benefits
You can feature conditions such as a good work-life balance, weekend activities, health insurance, or offer of a comfortable house.
As Western people spend Christmas with family, Japanese people traditionally go back home around the New Year’s Eve or during obon (a holiday season when ancestral spirits are believed to come home).
You may be able to attract attention by proposing a paid leave that would fit Japanese lifestyle.
■ Support between Hiring and Arrival
For the sushi chefs who will be working abroad for the first time, everything is new. You need to thoroughly explain the process from the official job offer to their arrival in the country with a visa.
If someone from the restaurant can pick them up at the airport, they will feel secure even more.
■ Position and Ingredients
What control does the offered position have and what kind of ingredients are available? One way to attract applicants is to ask them what position or ingredients they want to challenge so that you can take into account their insights for the job.
■ Japanese-Speaking Staff
Having a Japanese-speaking staff member can give a sense of security to an applicant who is not fluent in other languages.
4. What If I Have a Problem in Hiring?
“I do not know what my restaurant should feature to attract Japanese sushi chefs.”
“I have an idea of the chefs I am looking for, but I do not know how to find them.”
“We tried to recruit on our own before without success, so we want to find a truly skillful sushi chef this time.”
“Since no staff member speak Japanese, we want to entrust the whole task of hiring Japanese chefs to someone else.”
If you have a problem in recruiting Japanese sushi chefs, feel free to contact us Washoku Agent!