March 3, 2021

How to successfully land a job in the food and beverage industry

If you're looking for a food or beverage job, it's important to be prepared with what you bring to an interview. Here are some tips on getting hired!
By
Pamela Romano
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You're about to embark on the pursuit of finding a job in food and beverage industry but where do you start? The restaurant industry is competitive and fast-paced; finding success in this field is difficult.

This blog post will share what it takes to successfully land a food and beverage job, including finding the time to prepare for an interview, understanding work rules and policies, expressing your values, demonstrating your strengths with past experience (or current), and standing out from the crowd. If you think that pursuing a career in food or beverage sounds like something worth considering - read on!

Finding a job in the food and beverage industry

If you're currently working in a role that involves food or beverage (or related fields like hospitality), ask yourself if it maximizes your skills, talents, and abilities; does this job allow you to be the most productive you can be? If not, finding a food and beverage job may be an answer for you.

People who work in this industry tend to  be very outgoing and enjoy communicating with others. If you're the kind of person that loves to be involved in a variety of social activities, finding food and beverage jobs may seem like an ideal fit for your personality.

The restaurant industry is highly competitive; finding success can be difficult if this isn't something you truly want to do (or happen to love). People who are dedicated to finding success in the hospitality industry tend to be organized, responsible, highly motivated self-starters.

Do you possess these qualities? If not, consider what other roles may align with your personality type best - or think about working on developing some of these skills if they're something that would interest you.

Find your role

What is considered a food and beverage job?  There are many different positions that fall under this umbrella such as:

  1. Chef or executive chef
  2. Line Cook
  3. Server/waiter/waitress
  4. Bartender (or mixologist)
  5. Hostess/host
  6. Baker or pastry chef
  7. Restaurant manager or owner
  8. Catering manager or assistant
  9. Wine, Beer & Spirits Server
  10. Nightclub manager
  11. Sport's Bar manager
  12. Food truck owner or operator
  13. Hotel restaurant manager
  14. Culinary instructor
  15. Culinary arts teacher
  16. Café owner or barista
  17. Cafeteria worker
  18. Food preparation assistant
  19. Food scientist

Look for jobs that fit your role

It's time to look for jobs. There are four main places where you can look for job opportunities:

  1. Company websites - Many companies offer online applications, which makes finding openings easier and in a more timely manner than trying to do so in person.
  2. Local restaurant or bars - Ask friends if they know of any open positions, or see what businesses might be hiring near your home.
  3. Work your network - Ask friends and family if they know of any openings. If a friend or colleague works in this industry, see if you can ask them for some job leads.
  4. Job boards - There are several websites designed to help people find food and beverage jobs; check out sites like Angel-list, Careerbuilder, Indeed, Monster, or Craigslist.

Do your research

To successfully land a food and beverage job, it requires finding time during your busy schedule to prepare. You want to be sure that you're finding time to research the company, brush up on food and beverage industry trends, and update your resume (and cover letter) so it's ready for review by hiring managers.

One of the first things to consider when finding success is understanding all aspects involved with working at this company (and within this industry).

You'll want to understand everything including:

  • The company's goals in filling this role
  • How much time you can dedicate to this new job
  • What you intend to be paid and what they will offer
  • The type of menu and dining experience they offer
  • The quality standards they abide by
  • The dress code
  • Work rules and policies - both company specific as well as within this industry.
  • How to make an impact
  • What your role is in making that happen (and why)
  • What experience you have that can benefit the company?
  • How your past roles prepared you for finding this job (and why)
  • How your personality makes you well-suited for the team
  • If you have any accommodations that need to mentioned on the interview
  • The company's competitors and customers
  • Their strengths and weaknesses
  • Most popular beverage orders and food orders
  • The restaurant's customer service issues

Apply based on interest

Once you've found a job that fits your ideal role, it's time to start preparing your application.

You want to be sure that you're applying based on interest instead of finding any job because your schedule is limited or if your prefer a closer location.

Sometimes the dollar sign seems like a good enough incentive to  make finding success sound easy, but finding a company that fits your personality, interests, and values is what's going to make finding success much easier.

Prepare for an interview

When the interview comes around, be ready to sell your skills and talents. You'll need to demonstrate that you fit the role; companies are looking for people who will make them profitable in return.

Create a thorough cv

  1. Your contact information (full name, email, phone number, professional profiles)
  2. Your most recent education (if you received any post-secondary degrees or trades, omit high school from the list)
  3. Your top jobs with a brief description of your role and responsibilities (you do not need to show all of the jobs you had, choose from those that are the most recent and most align with the job you seek)
  4. Any awards or special accomplishments you acquired
  5. Your top 10 skills that you need for the job
  6. Qualities that make you interesting
  7. Any qualifications or certifications you received

Write a cover letter

A cover letter is a single page document that goes along with your resume, and it's the only opportunity you'll have to stand out in writing.

When writing, make sure you address the reasons you are applying for the job, and explain how you are qualified for the position based on your previous experience.

Make yourself memorable; include some of your personality traits and interests, but don't turn it into a novel (be concise).

Don't make any mistakes; proofread before sending each application.

If the company you are applying for does not ask for a cover letter, attach a short note at the bottom of your cv instead on in a specific area of the page. The goal of this note is to show the employer that you are interested in finding success with them and not just sending out your cv to a bunch of job applications.

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Check the status of your application

  • If you got no response within 5 days and there was no indication of the time frame in which they would get back to you, send an email to the person who is hiring to ask for feedback on your application.
  • If you got a response from the company, but it's negative, send an email to thank them again and wish them the best in finding the right candidate.
  • If you got a response, make sure you agree on a scheduled time frame for an interview (either in person, phone, or online). Usually, they are scheduled within two weeks from their response.
  • If they respond positively or provide a second interview, this is where your previous research will benefit you.

Know your strengths and weaknesses

Make sure you are confident in your strengths, but also know what you can improve upon. The food and beverage industry is highly competitive, so finding ways to stand out is important.

Here are some of the most common traits employers look for:

  • Approachable: Positive attitude, hard work ethic, and willingness to learn new things
  • Leadership skills that demonstrate how you can motivate others
  • Self awareness about your abilities, what motivates you personally or stay motivated in a team environment
  • Understanding of food and beverage industry standards (i.e. Health Canada regulations)
  • Willingness to work flexible hours or finding success on nights/weekends if needed for special events
  • Strong written and verbal communication skills; make sure you articulate your strengths clearly in writing during the interview process.
  • Be presentable: Dress for success, as it may be the first impression you make.
  • Ability to take on new roles
  • Has a passion for the industry

Feel free to read more about this on our other blog post "Key strategies for hiring restaurant staff".

Building experience in the food and beverage industry

Finding a job in the food and beverage industry comes with seeking opportunities that allow you to advance in your career; a job search that is curated to your strengths and interests.

You might be wondering how to gain experience in the industry if you don't have a formal education or any experience to your job description. Here are some ideas:

  • Working as a server at an entry level job will not give you the experience or knowledge that some employers look for. You may want to consider finding work in areas like food production events, catering, retail management (specify which one)
  • Internships are also great ways of gaining first hand industry insight and meeting new people who can provide connections for finding future work.
  • Volunteering is a great way of giving back to the industry and learning how restaurants operate behind closed doors. You can also add references from places you volunteer at on your resume when applying for jobs in food and beverage!
  • Taking training courses can add to your resume and show that you are willing to add new skills and learn more about the hospitality industry.
  • Serving meals in homeless shelters or in schools can provide great experience as kitchen staff
  • Serving food in movie theatres or at corporate events can also help you build up your resume and show your sense of commitment to diversifying your skills.
  • Earn a certificate that shows an additional skill set, like "Sommelier" which will look good on job applications. It is something employers may not expect from someone who does not have formal education.
  • Team player with an ability to work effectively in fast-paced environment.
  • Building a passion for food, cooking, and food preparation is possible through finding mentors in the industry as it can guide you to finding success and gaining experience.
  • Another way into the restaurant industry is through working in marketing and applying to food and beverage companies.
  • Apply as a sous chef in upscale restaurants

What makes a salary competitive?

A competitive salary in the food and beverage industry is usually determined by finding a balance between your experience level, education, the size of the restaurant, the location, and how long you have been with an employer.

One strong indication is when nearby restaurants have contrasting offers, so the one with the higher salary is essentially more competitive.

For example, If you are finding a salary of $35,000 in entry-level food and beverage industry jobs it is considered competitive.

To find this out for yourself:

  • Research what positions are available at your local market or restaurants that interest you
  • Look up average pay rates from those working in similar roles
  • Add your education level, experience, and other qualifications to find the average salary you should be looking for. This way you can negotiate a higher wage if necessary during an interview process.

To know an average salary:  

  • For servers, finding an average salary of $20-25 per hour is common. This can vary depending on the experience level and type of establishment you are working for. For example, finding a job at Walt Disney World will pay much higher than your local Subway restaurant in town.
  • For chefs, they make an average of $20-30 per hour, and finding a job in the food industry can be very competitive. There is a high turnover rate which means that chefs have to consistently stay up to date on new training courses or certifications they may need for their role or future career prospects.
  • For bussers, they typically earn around $18-25 an hour depending on their experience level and education. They can also be paid a lower hourly wage (minimum wage) with tips, which is common in the food industry to maintain a good work/life balance. These jobs are often entry level positions for finding success later down the line.
  • For bartenders, they can earn between $20-30 per hour depending on their experience level. They are responsible for finding ways to keep the bar running smoothly, so being able to communicate with others in a team environment is important.
  • For dishwashers, it is $11 per hour, which can vary depending on the amount of hours they work and what type of establishment they are working in. Depending on the restaurant, some may just use a machine to wash dirty dishes, while others will require professional services for larger quantities of dishes.
  • For host and hostess positions, they usually get paid $11-15 per hour with tips. So, they can make more than they think working coat check and helping out servers.

What benefits should you seek?

Finding a job in food and beverage will come with finding the benefits to make you feel valued by your employer.

Some of these include:

  1. Workplace and food safety training
  2. A uniform given to you at the employer's expense
  3. Health insurance coverage that fits within your budget
  4. Additional training courses on finding a job in food and beverage industry
  5. Competitive salary with tips, bonuses or commissions for finding success at work
  6. Paid time off for personal days or vacations is a great way to find balance between your career and life outside of the workplace.
  7. Discounts on food or beverages at your place of work
  8. Recognition for uncommon holidays and paid time off for celebrating them
  9. Opportunities for flexible scheduling
  10. Paid time off and care for possible injuries
  11. Options to retain a school-work balance
  12. 401K plans and retirement plans for future success

What should you avoid?

There are quite a few red flags to look out for when choosing a job in the restaurant industry. You need to be honest with the situation you are facing and understand how this may impact your reputation and enjoyment. If you can’t find a good word to say about this experience, finding another job in food and beverage may be challenging, yet necessary if you encounter some of the following problems:

  • Working at establishments that promote drugs or violence on their premises
  • Tasks such as handling raw foods without proper training or certification
  • A pattern of violence, bullying, or mistreatment of staff and/or customers
  • A very low salary which does not match the job description you have
  • Being asked to work for less than 4 hours in a day
  • Job positions with no opportunities for advancement
  • Working full-time with no benefits provided
  • Job titles that do not match the responsibilities you are given
  • Not finding a good work life balance due to working too many hours in one day or week
  • Poorly maintained equipment which could cause injury if used improperly
  • Unsanitary working conditions and/or food production
  • Unorganized food and beverage orders and/or recipes
  • A pattern of insufficient workers and/or sales
  • Improper maintenance of equipment
  • Does not offer a paid trial period

To conclude, it can be challenging finding a job in food and beverage because it’s a competitive and fast-paced industry. However, if you are able to find the time to prepare for an interview or know what benefits you should seek from your employer, then finding success is possible.

Remember that there are many red flags that may reveal poor working conditions so make sure you do your research before accepting any offer and get a first impression in person if you can. If all of this sounds intimidating and you want help enacting these principles, remember to take your time and reassess your values.

Do not forget that finding success comes with accepting benefits that will make you feel valued by your employer and your coworkers. However, finding a job in this industry will also come with trial and error, and seeing if you’re ready to take on the fast-paced environment and work-life balance.

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