"Apprenticeships have helped our managers become better leaders and helped us to foster a learning-centred approach across the business."
Category: HIT Large Employer of the Year
JKS Restaurants was founded by siblings Jyotin, Karam and Sunaina Sethi in November 2008. The group has 1000 employees and has received critical acclaim and industry recognition since its inception, including 6 Michelin stars, 4 Michelin Bib Gourmands, and one restaurant ranked in the World’s 100 Best Restaurants.
Launching a JKS Apprenticeship Academy was always a dream for JKS, but the need became critical in 2022 when their talent pool began to dramatically reduce due to the pandemic and Brexit.
Apprenticeship & Attraction Officer Lauren Polson said: “We realised that we’d need to start growing our talent, so we started to bring apprentices into our business. We teamed up with HIT Training because they were one of the largest providers, and once we started to discuss how we wanted our programme to work, they were accommodating and happy fitting into our apprenticeship model and adapting to our needs.
“We’re delighted to currently have eight apprentices on Level 2 Commis Chef or Hospitality Team Member programmes and four that have completed with three distinctions and a pass. Since our apprentices started with us, they have gone from strength to strength – most were unable to use a knife correctly and now have learned and put into practice breaking down poultry and game. Most of our apprentices now work as part of the service and even run their sections.
“We had one apprentice from our first cohort go on to take second place in HIT’s Fired Up Chef Competition, which was amazing for us and we were incredibly proud of the apprentice as he’d only been professionally cooking for one year.”
The apprenticeship programme at JKS is robust with learners spending a total of 12 months placed at six different restaurants within the group, two months at each.
“We aim to give apprentices an insight into what the industry has to offer and where their passion lies, whether it's the fast-paced environment of Taiwanese cuisine at BAO or the intricacies of crafting a 15-course tasting menu for a Michelin-starred restaurant like Kitchen Table,” said Lauren. “Apprentices have access to our discovery series, a chance for them to immerse themselves in the culture of JKS through interactive chef demonstrations, cocktail masterclass, yoga for wellbeing, and much more.
“Our apprentices also have access to THRIVE, our learning management system, which helps us support our employees with their mental health and wellbeing, as well as their personal and professional growth. The content on the platform is regularly updated to meet our apprentices’ needs and any gaps in their knowledge.
“We believe it’s important that our apprentices are aware of the current issues that face the industry such as sustainability, with the hope that they’ll carry what they have learned through their careers. With the help of our sustainability manager, we developed interactive off-the-training, which ended with us spending the day at ‘WE ARE GROW’, an agroecological farm in the heart of London. We have also taken our apprentices to visit several suppliers, who shared their struggles with procurement and how professionals can work with suppliers to ensure they are getting the best products.”
JKS has seen other benefits to the by partnering with HIT.
“The training programmes have helped our managers become better leaders, helped us to foster a learning-centred approach across the business, and assisted us in refreshing our approach to recruitment and learning and development to meet the needs of post-COVID employees. HIT has accommodated our aims for the programme and supports and pushes our learners to achieve the best, while also exhibiting excellent communication.
“Our apprentices have helped to boost morale within our sites and given support to our restaurant during extremely busy periods as well as providing the business with an insight on how we can adapt to meet the needs of the current/upcoming workforce.
“In the future, we hope to roll our apprenticeship across all levels, as well as our head office teams! We have plans to further extend our reach to apprentices by offering work placements and attending career talks at junior schools. We also want to empower our managers by offering them leadership and operations managers apprenticeships.”