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Jumpstarting Your Career In The Restaurant Industry

Aug 17, 2007
Studies on the United States' restaurant and food services sector have shown that the industry is one of the fastest growing, with the number of food managers touted to rise by around 45,000 annually starting the year 2014.

In fact, data from the National Restaurant Association attest to the fact that plenty of job opportunities are available for people both from within and outside the industry. It is for this reason that more and more people are getting interested and increasing their investment on restaurant and food services training and education.

What the Industry is About

The foodservice and restaurant sector covers areas such as catering, casual family diners, fine dining, chef-owned bistros, resorts and casinos, motels and hotels, cruise ships, fast food chains, theme parks, schools, company cafeterias, hospitals and just about wherever the preparation and selling of foodstuff is present.

To date, there are about twelve million jobs in this sector alone. It is one of the most widespread because food is a basic necessity. That's why many entrepreneurs say you can never go wrong when you enter the food business. Food services exist in every city, state and country, from the most metropolitan of environments to the most quait and far-flung locations. Due to such, employment opportunities in the restaurant industry is always high.

A career in the restaurant and foodservices industry does not mean simply asking the customer if he wants a side of coleslaw to go with his chicken. It is more than that. You will also have to hone your people skills in order to properly interact with the customer, as well as practice stellar hygiene and good grooming. A restaurant that does not demand so from its employees is no good.

In fact, even without the restaurant owner telling you how to conduct yourself on the job, it is your personal responsibility to make sure that customers all satisfied, happy and very much keen on coming back.

What Sort of Training Do You Need?

Most hole in the wall restaurants start from scratch. That is, without the formal education and training to set up and operate such a business. Some of the older and pioneering institutions began from owners' very own kitchens, without so much as a bachelor's degree to their names and, still, their restaurants continue to grow and thrive with the times.

However, the industry is growing at around 12% each year and the demands of the customer are getting more and more cosmopolitan. While zero training can be offset by pure dedication and interest in the restaurant and foodservices business, there also are strong arguments in favor of acquiring the right education and formal training needed for the job.

Education is useful given the changing times. With globalization at an all-time high, it is important for those engaged in the food business to keep themselves up to date and knowledgeable with the latest trends. With travel and communications booming at an alarming rate, the restaurant sector has the responsibility to move with it.

Most restaurants provdie in-house training for their personnel, in order for them to more easily advance to supervisory and managerial positions. Hence, it is not unusual for a former dishwasher or table service crew member to be the boss over a period of time. And though a number of food service staff are promoted to higher posts, the job opportunities for those with formal training, whether via an associate or bachelor's degree, in institutional food service and restaurant management are greater. It will be easier to climb up the ladder if you combine education with solid on-the-job experience.

Why Formal Education is Important

Employment in the food industry is considered a profession. Before, those who simply had ample interest and experienced-based know-how and resources can enter the business. While this is still true today, most institutions prefer that you have a certificate to back your resume.

Programs related to the restaurant and food services sector include food technology, marketing, customer relations, human resources, finance and business management. Institutional food service facilities also provide courses on nutrition, sanitation, record keeping, understanding of policies and procedures, food preparation, reports preparation, and personnel management.

Such hospitality management programs usually run for two to four years, after which you get a diploma or a certification. The more credentials you have, the more you will be perceived of as a professional who is well-trained, highly skilled and motivated. Achieving these credentials only shows how serious you are at advancing the industry and growing with your chosen career.

Thus, formal training is important because:

1. Having specialized qualifications entails that you're entering the restaurant and food services industry with more than the basic necessary skills to professionally advance

2. Specialized training shows prospective employers that you are motivated enough and have an ample level of maturity to move around such a high-pressure and fast-paced environment

3. People who graduate from hospitality-related programs and courses have turned out to be the ones who do better in their careers, whether they have actually entered the restaurant industry or not, according to data from the US Bureau of Labor Studies

4. Highly-skilled staff and those with formal restaurant training will be in high demand because jobs in full-service restaurants are expected to rise at a huge rate compared to other food services units.

Conducting Yourself on the Job

People working in the food services industry are not robots. Their job is not just to take directions and follow t hem to the letter. They must be able to make decisions themselves and have the initiative to address certain issues. A lot of restaurant operators take note of your personal qualities, for instance, problem-solving skills and attention to detail, before they decide if they want you to be part of their team or not. Grooming is also crucial.

A lot of these qualities you will learn while you're receiving formal training. While traits like leadership and initiative are ingrained, the right way of handling operations and customers if often not found if you just go it alone and rely on your instincts. Opportunities in the restaurant world will continue to rise as the industry grows in conjunction with the population, leisure times and personal incomes.

Whether you're eyeing a job at a small restaurant or a fine dining place, the amount of dedication you give out should be the same. It is inevitable that you'll start at the rank and file level, as you will need the experience to gain solid footing in all possible restaurant duties. Coupled with a degree, it won't be surprise if you find yourself at one of the top positions in six to twelve months' time. When this happens, relish the moment. You definitely deserve it.
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