Crisis in HORECA: Dutch restaurants forced to recruit cooks from abroad

The Dutch catering industry is currently suffering from an acute staffing shortage. So much so that entrepreneurs and restaurant owners have been forced to bring in cooks from Portugal, Spain, and Greece.

The catering industry is allowed to open again, but it hasn’t been plain sailing — many restaurants are severely understaffed.

Dick van Ostaden who works at the recruitment company ‘Cooks from Spain’ tells the NOS that “the influx into professional catering training courses is minimal, and is currently at 30% of its capacity.”

As a result, he has been receiving requests for staff from a wide range of establishments. He’s provided staff for “street corner eateries, to five-star hotels in Amsterdam and Michelin restaurants.”

The coronavirus crisis took a toll

The existing dilemma was intensified during coronavirus. A lot of Dutch staff left the catering industry during lockdown and haven’t been inclined to make their way back to the kitchen.

Hendrik Karabagias, a restaurant owner from Zwolle tells the NOS, “The RIVM and the GGD pay better, and we can’t compete with that.

The demanding schedule also means that many people prefer the idea of working an office job to literally slaving over a hot stove for hours on end.

New ways of operating

In Zwolle, Karabagias has been experimenting with new ways to deal with the staffing shortage. He has placed a tablet on every table so that customers can order their food and drinks themselves without a waiter having to walk back and forth several times. (It works but we miss the friendly faces.)

Some restaurants in the Netherlands have also been offering signing bonuses of a few hundred euros to try and attract new staff — or poach them from their competition. That works too.

What are your thoughts on this crisis in catering? Tell us in the comments below!

Feature Image: Michael Browning/Unsplash

Jen Lorimer 🇿🇼
Jen Lorimer 🇿🇼
An avid tea drinker, Jen was born and raised in Zimbabwe. She moved to Utrecht in 2017 to pursue her history degree. She loves people-watching, canoeing the Utrecht canals, and observing how the Dutch come alive in summer. Having been traumatised by a Dutch circle party, Jen wants to help equip other internationals with tips and tricks to survive and thrive in this wonderful flat country.


  1. The best way for them to recover is to get rid of zero hour contracts and offering the expats in NL the same benefits as the naturalized citizens. There is an enormous untapped labor market in trailing spouses, but the wages are so low for us that it isn’t even worth taking the job. I have fifteen years of experience in horeca, and a culinary degree, and I still can’t get offered enough money to even put food on my table. The low wages, lack of social support, and the inconsistent hours make horeca a poor job choice for anyone, but especially any expats that live here currently.

  2. There are many skilled and semi-skilled South Africans that would move to Netherlands for work opportunity as the SA economy is going through major crisis here. I would also be willing to bring my agriculture technology project to Netherlands if I received the right business startup support.

    We could make a major impact on Netherlands economy across restaurants, community development, finance technology, agriculture.

    Please get in contact on how we could mobilise something

  3. Paying barely above minimum wage for 60+ hour weeks in a stressful environment, who would’ve thought people would want to do that.
    Clocking 30 hours but working 60.
    Getting a 38 hour contract but working 15 hours a day 5-6 days a week.
    Understaffed kitchens on purpose by cheap owners so if a single employee is missing the whole place collapses.
    Yeah no wonder at all.i can’t work 15 hours at minimum salary knowing a table is paying 400 euros for their meal and walk out happy


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