Are you hungry for a challenge?
If you’re passionate about food and work best as part of a team in a fast-paced environment, a job in the catering industry could be for you. Not sure where to start? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.
Here are some careers to consider in the catering industry and some of our top tips to help you get there:
What they do: Use their expert knowledge on health and nutrition to give people advice on making good choices when it comes to their diets. They also assess and treat a host of medical problems that are related to nutrition.
What you need: To be fascinated by food, health and nutrition. You will also need to be good at explaining complicated issues to those with no scientific experience, and be able to get your point across in the most tactful way. To become a Dietitian you will generally need a specific qualification related to the industry, with a degree being preferable for most employers.
What you can earn: Entry level is around £22,000, but can reach somewhere closer to the £40,000 mark once fully qualified and experienced.
Perfect for: People who see food scientifically.
Our advice: If you’re interested in science and are considering becoming a Dietitian, taking a qualification specific to the industry is a great way to see if it’s the right career move for you. A Nutrition Advisor Foundation course, for example, could be the perfect way to build a career in the industry.
What they do: They’re in charge of the entire kitchen, taking control of everything from food orders and stock control through to managing staff, preparing new menus and producing new dishes to add to a restaurant’s repertoire.
What you need: Aside from excellent cooking skills, to be a successful Head Chef you will need to lead by example. Strong communication skills, drive and self-motivation are essential, as is the ability to delegate tasks effectively. A degree is not necessary.
What you can earn: Around £30,000, although this will vary depending on location and size of restaurant (not to mention your reputation).
Perfect for: People who like to be in control.
Our advice: You will need an extensive level of kitchen experience in order to become a Head Chef, particularly at Sous Chef level. Wherever possible, volunteer to help with some of the lower-level management responsibilities your Head Chef undertakes, ordering and inventories for example. That way you’ll have some vital experience you’ll need to become a Head Chef to add to your CV.
What they do: Carry out most of the basic tasks which are essential for the smooth running of a kitchen. Typical duties for a Porter include washing up, cleaning kitchen appliances, washing work surfaces, unloading deliveries and, in some cases, even basic food preparation.
What you need: The ability to work quickly and efficiently as part of a team, not to mention the capability to work under your own initiative. This is an entry level position in the catering industry, and therefore experience and qualifications are generally not necessary.
What you can earn: Kitchen Porters will earn between £12,000 and £14,000, although this may be higher if working in a busier restaurant.
Perfect for: People who want to break into the catering industry.
Our advice: It’s hard work being a Porter, but it often pays dividends in the long run. Not only is it a great way to remain flexible and earn some supplementary cash, it will allow you to gain essential experience in the kitchen environment, and can often lead on to more culinary focussed careers as a result.
What they do: Manage all aspects of a restaurant. Typical duties of a Restaurant Manager include organising bookings, overseeing and recruiting staff, dealing with complaints, making sure the premises adheres to health and safety regulations, maintaining budgets and looking after the financial state of the business.
What you need: Excellent interpersonal and customer service skills and the ability to manage a large number of staff efficiently and effectively. A degree may not be necessary, although specific qualifications will help get you started.
What you can earn: Initial salary may start at around £20,000, but successful Restaurant Managers will go on to earn £35,000+.
Perfect for: People who are business minded and want to work in the catering industry.
Our advice: To be successful as a Restaurant Manager, you will need to know the business inside out. For this reason, try and avoid job hopping if you’re looking to move into this role. Having fewer front-of-house jobs, but working your way up through the company, will generally stand you in good stead when it comes to other applications.
What they do: A Sous Chef is second in command to a Head Chef, in charge of the more practical elements of food preparation, rather than the more business-led responsibilities of their boss. It’s their job to help oversee all kitchen duties, supervising the preparation and cooking of food and ensuring the smooth day-to-day running of the kitchen.
What you need: First and foremost, excellent food preparation skills. The kitchen is a fast-paced, stressful environment, so the ability to keep calm under pressure is essential. Efficiency and the ability to prioritise tasks are similarly invaluable. A degree is generally not a pre-requisite, although a certain level of experience will be necessary to become a Sous Chef.
What you can earn: Starting salary will be around the £20,000 mark, rising to around £28,000 and above for a Senior Sous Chef.
Perfect for: People who are passionate about food.
Our advice: As with Head Chefs, to become a Sous Chef you will need to have a few years of experience in other kitchen roles. If possible, try and spend some time working at every position available to you. Not only will this give you a better understanding of other areas, it will also make it easier to supervise staff when you know the roles inside out.
What they do: Serve food or drinks at restaurants, bars, cafés, hotels, and a number of other establishments. A number of waiting and bar staff also work at big events, serving customers at festivals, trade shows and sporting or music events, for example.
What you need: A friendly and welcoming demeanour, an outgoing personality and the ability to remember a variety of orders under pressure. Patience (when dealing with customers) will also be a virtue.
What you can earn: If full-time and permanent, salary can range from anywhere between £14,000 and £20,000 for an entry level position. However, many choose to work in a part-time capacity, and hourly rates will vary depending on where you work. Lucrative tips are also a potential perk in this position.
Perfect for: People people.
Our advice: In most cases, starting out in entry level positions will require little in the way of pre-requisites. However, they are often competitive roles to go for. To help set you apart when sending your application, make sure to highlight some of the key skills needed to be successful in these positions (confidence, outgoing personality, ability to multi-task etc.), and give examples of times you’ve demonstrated them effectively.
Other jobs in the catering industry to consider: Barista, Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker, Pastry Chef, Chef de Partie, Food Scientist.
Here are some of our top tips for finding a job in the catering industry:
- Be practical – Don’t be afraid to start at the bottom. It’s not unheard of for Kitchen Porters to go on to be Chef de Partie’s in a matter of years.
- Demonstrate your skills – Pick out the most relevant attributes from the job description and tailor your CV to emphasise them.
- Focus – Where do you want your career to take you? ‘I want to work in catering’ will not give you the direction you need to succeed.
- Make sure you’re up-to-date – Keep an eye on the latest developments in the food industry and (for chefs) try and incorporate any new trends into your own dishes.
- Start learning – If you need an extra qualification to back up your soft skills, take a course to help take you to the next level.
- Learn by doing – In this industry, experience is everything. Sign up for an internship or voluntary/work-experience position and learn the ropes. With the right mentor, it may even lead to something more permanent.
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