From enjoying a skinny latte in a café to a sumptuous meal in a Michelin-starred restaurant, Brits love to dine out – and you could be part of this booming industry!
Are you passionate about food? Do you love creating delicious dishes and serving appreciative diners? Could you work as part of a team in a fast-paced environment? Then a job in a restaurant or some other kind of eatery could be the perfect career for you.
People eat out more now than ever before and for a wider range of occasions – and more people are regularly eating takeaway and delivery food, too. This has led to significant growth in the restaurant sector in recent times, especially the last two years1, which is predicted to continue. This is an exciting point at which to join the catering industry.
Something for everyone
It’s a trade that offers a wide variety of roles, from pot washer in a pub kitchen to head chef at a five-star restaurant frequented by royalty – via whizzing up fancy coffees in a café or catering for events such as weddings – and there’s something to suit every level of skill and experience. The industry offers lots of flexibility, too. Seasonal work and shifts are common, and there’s plenty of casual and part-time work available, allowing you to fit your job around your other commitments.
A career in the restaurant trade also offers flexibility on qualifications and study. It’s one industry where you can start at the bottom with no accreditation or experience and work your way up while learning on the job. Alternatively, you can do a range of courses and diplomas – including training in professional cookery, silver service waiting, and hospitality and catering management – and enter the industry at a higher level with a skill set that will take you far.
From coffee shops to pubs, fast food restaurants and top hotels to formal events and hospital kitchens, here are some roles you may want to consider.
A formal service where food is transferred by waiting staff from a platter to the guest’s plate at the table (rather than plated in the kitchen), silver service is practised in high-end restaurants and at formal events, and involves strict etiquette. Staff work in teams under the supervision of the maître d’ (head waiter).
What skills do I need? Previous waiting experience is valuable and good customer skills are essential. You may be trained on the job or sent on a course. You can also apply for a course independently. You’ll need to look smart and have the ability to work well under pressure.
How can I progress? With experience, you can become a maître d’ or restaurant supervisor.
How much can I earn? Trained silver service staff earn £8 to £10 an hour, and hours are variable. A maître d’ can earn up to £17,000.
A catering manager is in charge of food provision in an organisation such as a school, hospital or hotel, or any service where food is delivered. You plan menus (including catering for special diets), recruit staff, organise rotas, manage budgets and stock, and ensure staff work to the necessary regulations.
What skills do I need? There are no set qualifications, but you need good maths and English skills, and previous work in a professional kitchen will stand you in good stead. Many people start in a junior role and work their way up. A qualification in hospitality or catering is helpful, but it’s more important to have good organisational and communication skills, and be able to lead and motivate a team of staff.
How can I progress? With experience you can move on to larger organisations or start your own catering business.
How much can I earn? Salaries start at £19,000, rising to £40,000 for a highly experienced manager.
The mixologists of the coffee world make and serve a complex variety of coffees. As well as whipping up these creations, you’ll grind beans, clean and maintain equipment, and monitor stock. You may work in a large chain of coffee shops, independent café, hotel or restaurant.
What skills do I need? Experience in catering or customer service is useful, as are qualifications in food safety, hospitality or catering, but these aren’t essential as most training is on the job or through an apprenticeship. GCSEs in maths and English are helpful. You’ll need to work well under pressure and have a friendly, professional manner.
How can I progress? You can become a store manager or regional manager, or set up your own café.
How much can I earn? Salaries start at £8,000 to £15,000 for a trainee, rising to £20,000 for an experienced barista. Hours vary.
Fast food restaurant manager
As the manager of a fast food outlet, you’re responsible for the running and profit of your branch, and maintaining the reputation of the brand. You’ll be responsible for recruiting, managing and training staff and ensuring high levels of customer service. You’ll also prepare performance reports and liaise with regional managers.
What skills do I need? Many people enter through graduate training programmes, while others begin as counter staff and work their way up. Qualifications in business, catering or hospitality are useful, but it’s more important to be organised, motivated and ambitious, with good people skills.
How can I progress? You can advance to area manager and eventually senior management roles.
How much can I earn? Salaries start at £19,000 for an assistant manager, rising to £32,000 as a manager, depending on the size of the branch. Hours are long and varied.
Working in restaurants, hotels, pubs and other establishments, chefs not only cook and present meals in attractive ways, but also prepare ingredients, control stock and create menus. Knowledge of hygiene practices, health and safety rules, and allergens are essential.
What skills do I need? People enter the profession in different ways – through on-the-job training, accredited diploma courses or apprenticeships. You’ll need good organisational skills and the ability to stay calm under pressure. You also need to be physically fit as the work is demanding and kitchens are hot, humid and busy.
How can I progress? You can advance to station chef (also known as section chef), sous chef or head chef. You can also move into management or training.
How much can I earn? Salaries start at £13,000 for a trainee, rising to £25,000 for a station chef, and £50,000 for a head chef. Shifts can be unsociable.