Sligro logoMathijs Gielen (De Staat) helps with his new temporary employment agency I-Cooks to find fellow catering entrepreneurs to find cooks. ‘There are already enough temporary employment agencies, but few who know exactly what is going on in the hospitality industry from their own experience.’

Name: Mathijs Gielen
Case: I-Cooks (En De Staat)
Website: I-cooks


Many hospitality entrepreneurs have a great challenge to find quality staff. What can they do themselves to improve their position?

‘In my experience, it starts with the right treatment. I’m talking about rewarding people in the right way and offering the right preconditions. After a long time there is now a collective labor agreement again, but in my opinion it is not good enough for employees. For example, the determined wages are still wages ‘at the lower end’. In addition, there are still entrepreneurs who do not pay overtime, but see it as an ‘investment’ in yourself. Employees are the engine of your catering business. So you have to take good care of them.’

‘Taking good care of your people is the beginning. People have more choice. When I look at Arnhem, I see that a catering business is opening in almost every vacant building. At the same time, the number of people leaving hospitality training is decreasing. The pond is getting smaller and smaller while more and more entrepreneurs cast their fishing rod in the same pond. What you get then is chefs hopping from one to the other. If my chef leaves for the neighbor, another neighbor’s chef will leave for me, so to speak. There are shortages and unrest.’

Is that where I-Cooks comes in as a solution?

‘As a catering entrepreneur, I indeed saw the need around me. This is how I-Cooks was born: the temporary employment agency that provides the Dutch hospitality industry with the best kitchen professionals from abroad. My friend Lisanne now runs De Staat, our restaurant in Arnhem, and I am very busy filling vacancies.’

Does I-Cooks offer a temporary or structural solution?

‘More structural than we expected in advance, but hoped. With I-Cooks we initially thought we could help with temporary solutions, for about six months. But we see that candidates also want to stay for a longer period of time. There are even examples of people who came to a catering business through us, but have since been taken over in their own service. Then our goal has been achieved even more. This way we can really continue to contribute to the growth of the Dutch hospitality industry!’

How did you start?

‘We started ‘from scratch’ last September. We first approached and visited dozens of foreign agencies and partners. We looked for parties that were looking for the right candidates for us in their own country and that we knew we could trust. Because entrepreneurs who engage us also rely on us. That is why we really took the time to set up a good network. It was not until March, when the network was up and running, that we placed the first candidate. Now, more than half a year later, we have about 70 people working. Everything accelerated when we started working with a few larger organizations, such as Meyer Beheer and Landal Greenparcs.’

Where do your candidates come from?

‘From fifteen different countries, but eighty percent from Spain and Portugal. Most of which come from Portugal. This is partly due to the fact that we have a collaboration there with the hotel school of Lisbon, a hotel school with twelve branches throughout Portugal. It is no coincidence that it is mainly chefs from Portugal and Spain who come to work in Dutch kitchens. The passion for the kitchen is woven into their culture and the chefs have a healthy work ethic. They are used to working in different locations. Many chefs from these countries go to the coast in the summer months to cook for months to earn some extra money. The Netherlands is also attractive to them in that respect. The working conditions are a lot better and the wages here are a bit higher than they are used to there.’

Why is it attractive for these foreign talents to come and work on your behalf?

‘There are several platforms that bring employers and job seekers into contact with each other, but we go much further than connecting. We must not forget that we are working with people here. That is why we arrange the entire transfer from abroad to the Netherlands. Then we are talking about housing at a maximum of 30 or 40 minutes from the work location. But also all administration: from inclusion in the Municipal Personal Records Database, a citizen service number to insurance. We recruit our employees for a longer period of time, because it is not interesting for them to go abroad for less than one or two months. Only the trip to the Netherlands is not reimbursed. We deliberately keep a small threshold to exclude gold diggers.’

And why is it attractive for employers to hire you?

‘Because we arrange everything from A to Z and the employer benefits from the benefits without the burden. As a hospitality entrepreneur, I know what the right candidate must meet. We now have a large database of candidates, but if someone wants to fill a specific vacancy, we mainly recruit in a targeted manner. Moreover, an employer does not run any employer’s risk. In the event of illness, the costs are for us. And if a candidate is not to your liking or is no longer needed, we can stop the collaboration immediately. Candidates are on the payroll. For this we work together with our Partner Ergon Nederland. After the agreed period, employers can hire a candidate immediately.’

Which vacancies do you mainly serve?

‘At the moment it mainly concerns assistant cooks, basic cooks and self-employed cooks. We notice that companies find it exciting to appoint a foreign sous chef or chef, for example. Also because of the language difference. But foreign sous chefs, on the other hand, can bring a lot of experience. They have often seen many different kitchens inside. And adapt easily.

When did your mission succeed?

‘Setting an objective or having a dreamed ambition are different things, but we have determined for ourselves to be the largest temporary employment agency in the hospitality industry by 2025. At the moment we focus on chefs. But we also get demand for other positions, such as waiters and bartenders. This is something we will also be looking at shortly. If we are going to broaden, then it must not be at the expense of the focus. Therein lies our strength. There are already enough temporary employment agencies, but few who know exactly what is going on in the hospitality industry from their own experience. Hospitality requires a certain kind of people, it’s a human profession.’



Fill in the contact form below and we will contact you within 24 hours.

Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.