Chef Marcus Paslay, from Clay Pigeon Food and Drink, and his wife have spent 10 years gigging about the country.

The Restaurant Industry is Ripe for Gigging

The advantages of joining the gig workforce are obvious for chefs and restaurant professionals who want to travel the world.

I was into the gig philosophy long before it became the hip lifestyle and economy wave of the future. I’ve valued it from both sides of the paycheck: Hiring talented contract columnists and freelancers to contribute to FSR and, years ago, as a footloose editor who preferred to write on the fly, sometimes in the midnight hours. 

When I talk with someone like Chef Marcus Paslay and hear the adventures he and his wife had in the 10 years they spent gigging about the country, some serious twinges of nostalgic envy go through my mind. (Granted, Chef Paslay is an avid fisherman and hunter—as you’ll discover in the story on page 17— but here I’m exercising poetic license to suggest that gigging has nothing to do with catching fish. Instead, it just might be the googling verb of 2017.) 

Whether you want to be proper and say that many young chefs are seeking gigs as a way to experience various cultures and cuisines, or you want to run with me and say this is simply an industry ripe for gigging, the fact remains: We’re in the throes of a robust Gig Economy. 

And it’s only going to escalate. Financial-services company Intuit, working with consulting firm Emergent Research, has predicted that, by 2020, more than 40 percent of the U.S. workforce will be independent contractors or engaged in non-traditional positions that fall within the definition of a gig.

The advantages of joining the gig workforce are obvious for chefs and restaurant professionals who want to travel the world—or even sample regional differences across the U.S. But there are equally compelling reasons for restaurant operators to embrace this staffing model. 

For starters, it offers tremendous flexibility for staffing to seasonal demand and special events. And just as it positions workers to glean experience and knowledge from a variety of locales, it also allows operators to recruit temporary talent from other parts of the country. Maybe you’re a New England chef eager to bring in some Southwestern influences for a spring LTO, or you’re a Seattle operator who’d like to see if a sommelier from New York might visit with insights on East Coast vineyards. (Speaking of which, don’t miss the feature on “Wines with Local Color,” page 52.)

The most important characteristic to know about the people you might hire is that gigging is a proactive choice: According to another Intuit report, 56 percent of people working gigs do so because it’s what they want. Another 26 percent choose to do it for extra income, and only 18 percent are gigging because a traditional job is unavailable.

If you haven’t embraced the Gig Economy before, perhaps ’tis the season to do so. 

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