Careers in Food Service

Most of you have heard of these careers in food service:

General Manager
The general manager is responsible for monitoring the financial success of a restaurant. The general manager supervises both the assistant managers and the executive chef. S/he is responsible for tracking the income and expenses of the restaurants. S/he does cost analysis of the profit margin the restaurant is making on the sale of food and adjusts pricing as necessary. The general manager also works on marketing campaigns to attract new and repeat customers to the restaurant. The general manager has the final say on financial aspects of the management of the restaurant. General managers can operate more than one restaurant at a time, especially if the restaurant is part of a chain.  General managers make an average of $46,000 a year. However, the pay scale can vary greatly depending on a number of factors.

Assistant Manager
Assistant managers in large restaurants handle what is know as “the front” of the restaurant. This area includes the dining area along with any private rooms. S/he is also responsible for handling catering private events if the restaurant does not have a catering manager. The assistant manager is responsible for keeping the customers happy. S/he monitors the performance of the employees in the dining area and assist where needed.  The assistant manager interacts with customers on a regular basis and solicits their feedback on their dining experience. The assistant manager should do everything he can to remedy any issues that need corrected brought to his attention by his staff or a customer.  The assistant manager is responsible for hiring and training the waiters, waitresses and hosts or hostesses to work on the dining floor. She is also responsible for hiring and training the bartenders, as well. Assistant managers may sit in on meetings with vendors to supply input on decisions regarding food, decorations and dining supplies.  Assistant managers make an average of $38,000 a year. Again, this pay range here is significant depending on things like market, restaurant type, experience and other factors.

Executive Chef
In full service restaurants, an executive chef is responsible for what is known as the “back” of the house, which is the kitchen. S/he is responsible for planning the menu for the restaurant. S/he is also responsible for ensuring the quality of the food that comes out of the kitchen. To do this, the executive chef has control over the operations in the kitchen. S/he is the one who assigns duties within the kitchen, takes responsibility for training the other members of the kitchen staff and participates in the hiring process in some restaurants.  The executive chef is expected to keep up with current trends in the food service industry. To do this, she should read publications for the food service industry and attend trade show events to learn about new trends. The executive chef frequently meets with vendors along with the manager of the restaurant and sometimes the general manager will attend, as well.  Executive chefs make an average of $50,000, but this salary does not reflect the often six-figure salaries that more exclusive chefs can command at high-end restaurants.

Catering Manager
The catering manager is responsible for all special events at the dining facility. S/he meets with clients and helps them in planning their event. The catering manager can recommend outside vendors that he might have a working partnership with, such as photographers, entertainers and disc jockeys. S/he is responsible for monitoring the success of special events at the facility. S/he may work with an executive chef for large events, and possibly an assistant manager as well.    The catering manager is responsible for hiring her own staff and making sure they are trained properly for catering the events the facility hosts. S/he will design the menu for his clients, possibly along with the assistance of an executive chef.  Catering managers make an average of $45,000 a year, depending on experience.

Here are some careers in food service you haven’t heard of:

Culinary Trendologist

How do fast-food restaurants decide it’s time to put a panini on the menu? Trends. Kara Nielsen, a trendologist for San Franciso-based Center for Culinary Development, IDs new food trends and advises clients on what will be big on the eating scene — and when. “My goal is to keep an eye on the whole landscape,” explains Nielsen — and that requires an appetite for research. Nielsen studies blogs, industry news, magazines, and menus from across the country, plus watches a lot of food television. Another valuable source of info? You — the consumer.

Celeb Chef Assistant

Behind every successful celebrity chef lies a dedicated and devoted assistant. They are gatekeepers, jugglers, and magicians rolled into one. Responsibilities vary by day, but generally include setting up interviews and photo shoots, managing the chef’s Twitter account, coordinating cookbook tours, responding to fan mail, escorting chefs to morning shows, answering a million phone calls and e-mails, and fielding VIP reservations.

Recipe Tester and Developer

Perfecting recipes and writing up precise directions is the responsibility of the recipe tester. Depending on the project, these alchemists can create recipes from scratch or — shh, don’t tell — clean up star chef recipes that need a little refining. When cookbook author and recipe developer Sarah Huck is working on a roastedlamb dish, for instance, she calls upon her vast food knowledge, from an array of different cooking techniques to proper cooking temperature for each food to the best flavor combinations and even myriad measurement conversions.

Restaurant Publicist

In this media-frenzied age, every restaurant needs a good publicist to cut through the clutter. Publicists, or PR reps, are often hired to help spread the word when a restaurant opens. How do they get the news out? By sending persistent pitch letters to magazine, newspaper, and Web editors, and morning show producers; hosting sneak-peek events for the media elite; and providing information to writers on deadline to ensure they don’t miss out on a story.

Gourmet Food Buyer

Besides hitting up conventions like the Fancy Food Show and attending local food festivals, a food buyer studies what comes off of the shelf as much as what goes onto it. According to Whole Foods Market’s Kara Rubin, “Eighty-percent of the buyer’s job is to evaluate current product mix.” They determine what should be discontinued to create room to add the latest and greatest eats. Though they are the ultimate decision makers, buyers are heavily influenced by trends and consumer demand. So speak up!


A brewmaster is in charge of creating the finest suds for the brewery. That means ideation, innovation, managing quality, and developing the recipes. Beer doesn’t grow on trees!

An excellent resource on Culinary Careers:

Culinary Careers: How to Get Your Dream Job in Food, with Advice from Top Culinary Professionals


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s