The food service industry has earned something of an unfair reputation. Too often restaurant jobs are seen as dead ends without the security of more traditional white-collar careers, but the restaurant industry manages to maintain a level of consistency. Nearly 10% of the workforce operates within the industry, and the restaurant industry at large constitutes about 4% of the American GDP. It’s a big sector and one that constitutes a huge variety of different disciplines. Here are some of the most promising opportunities.
It would be insincere to say that making a name for yourself in the back of house isn’t a difficult job. But the hierarchy of the kitchen is refreshingly egalitarian. Anyone who climbs the ladder has to put in their dues, generally starting in monotonous and inglorious jobs and slowly making a name for themselves. Culinary school can help develop the basics, but chances are that even the most talented graduate will have to put in the labor before they see success.
That said, chefs hold more prestige today than the perhaps ever have. Channels like Food Network and shows like Chef’s Table and Parts Unknown have turned the role of a chef into a glamorous and personality-driven career path, and the opportunities for success are available even for aspiring cooks who don’t have the money or time to invest in culinary higher education. Then there are chefs making names for themselves outside of the typical industry. Specialized cooking shows have become a cottage industry on platforms like YouTube, and they allow anyone with talent to connect directly to their audiences.
While the restaurant industry comes with its own peculiarities you won’t find in other sectors, it’s still a business, and it needs people with heads for overseeing finances and managing people. Anyone with a strong head for business and an instinct for leadership can manage what type of restaurant they want, and higher education isn’t a necessity here. Many managers earn their position by proving themselves on the bottom rungs of a restaurant, and some even continue on with opening their own restaurants. As point of sale systems and other technologies become more prominent in the industry, there’s an increasingly high demand for managers with a strong sense of technology and a capacity for using social media and other emerging platforms as a way to reach out to customers.
While the restaurant industry might not seem like the most natural fit for tech-inclined developers, the two are actually closely intertwined. New technology is radically changing the way that restaurants do business, and there’s a huge demand for companies and creatives that can both develop the sorts of technologies that can give a restaurant an upper hand against their competition. The biggest market here is probably point of sales systems which have grown from being a simple way to process credit cards and evolved into vast platforms that can essentially serve as an establishment’s nervous system. But that’s just the tip of the spear. From tablet frameworks built for tabletop service to email and SMS marketing tools to apps that automate loyalty programs, there are a wealth of creative opportunities for developers and designers who want a piece of the food service industry.