7 entry-level jobs to get you going in the restaurant industry
According to the National Restaurant Association, the U.S. food service industry currently employs 14.4 million professionals. That number is projected to grow by 1.7 million over the next decade with increasing opportunities from entry-level to restaurant management. If you’re interested in a career in an industry with astonishing growth potential, a job in food service could be for you—even if your current experience level is little to none. Consider the following plentiful entry-level jobs to help you get your foot in the restaurant door.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), bartenders earned an average of $19,530 per year in 2015. While U.S. restaurants, bars and nightclubs employed 580,990 of them in 2014, the number of opportunities for bartenders is projected to increase 10 percent by 2014. Most of these new positions will not require any formal education as many establishments train their bartenders on the job. However, applicants who have previously taken bartending classes—which include learning about state and local laws and regulations—may have an advantage over those without any experience.
Bussers are responsible for cleaning up restaurant tables after diners leave. This includes gathering dirty plates, silverware, glassware and napkins and taking them to the dishwashing and laundry stations before resetting the table with fresh utensils and linen. Bussers may help servers bring food and beverages to the table as well as restock condiments and other dining room essentials. While it’s one of the lowest jobs on the restaurant totem pole, becoming a busser does not require any experience and is a great way to get your foot in the door before moving on to a server or bartender role.
The duties of a restaurant dishwasher include cleaning dishes, silverware, glassware and food preparation equipment, generally using commercial dishwashing machines; though larger pots and pans and some kitchen equipment are usually washed by hand. Dishwashers are also often responsible for cleaning up the kitchen and taking out the trash after the restaurant has closed. According to the BLS, the industry employed 505,000 dishwashers in 2015. They made an average of $19,340 a year. While dishwasher is another of the lowest jobs on the restaurant totem pole, many restaurant owners and famous chefs got their start at the kitchen sink.
Restaurant hosts and hostesses greet guests at the door, take them to their table, and provide them with menus. They are also responsible for monitoring the table rotation to ensure that each server has an appropriate amount of work. In many restaurants, the host/hostess answers phones, enters reservations, and handles take-out orders as well. Most of these positions don’t require any special education or experience, though many hosts / hostesses eventually work their way up to become front-of-house managers or even restaurant general managers.
If back-of-house is more your style, a job as a line cook could be the perfect starting point for your restaurant career. Line cooks are responsible for prepping ingredients and preparing dishes at an assigned station to the specifications of the sous chef and executive chef. Stations on the line include fry, grill and sauté. Entry-level line cooks are often assigned to the fry station and may eventually work their way up to the sauté station where the most complicated dishes are prepared. According to the Culinary Schools Network, line cooks earn between $10 and $17 an hour. Those who graduate from a culinary arts program may make more as well as work their way up the line quickly. Dedicated line cooks may go on to become line supervisors, sous chefs, and executive chefs.
Prep cooks wash and chop vegetables and fruits, break down meats, clean fish, weigh and mix ingredients and more. They’re basically responsible for preparing the building blocks of the restaurant’s menu items so that the line cooks can quickly assemble and fire dishes as they are ordered. This often requires being one of the first to begin work in the kitchen each day. While there are no education requirements for most prep cook positions, basic knife skills, and food safety knowledge may give you a leg up in your job search. Prep cook is a great entry-level restaurant position for anyone not yet ready to step onto the line.
According to the BLS, the U.S. hospitality industry employed 2,465,100 servers in 2014. These professionals earned an average of $19,250 per year taking orders and serving food and beverages to customers at restaurants and in other dining establishments. Nearly half of them work part time, with early morning, mid-day, late evening, weekend and holiday shifts available. Most learn their skills on the job, as no formal education is required for the majority of server positions. Dedicated servers can advance to careers as dining room supervisors, front-of-house managers, and restaurant general managers.