Joining and thriving in the restaurant industry isn’t easy—especially when there’s so much hearsay. For example, a common misconception about the industry is the lack of professional growth in restaurants, but joining one as a front-of-house or back-of-house staff member doesn’t mean that’ll be the ceiling for you. In fact, it can be just the beginning.
There are several opportunities for growth and promotion within a restaurant and sometimes they extend outside the restaurant itself. Here’s a look at three of them.
1. Industry suppliers—networking is the name of the game
Restaurants can’t operate without their suppliers and there’s usually a designated one for each part of the business including food, drinks, technology or dining equipment—including a restaurant POS. And because it’s such a crucial component of a restaurant’s business, each supplier is carefully chosen based on their skill set, reliability and whether they’re a good match for the restaurant.
But how do you break into that side of the restaurant industry? The trick is knowing who to talk to. Start networking and build relationships with the representatives from suppliers on all sides of the business. Then get to know their products, how they operate and provide great service to their clients.
That way, if an opportunity arises at their company, you’ve not only been using their products as a restaurant staff member, but you’ll understand and know their business, too. This can help set you apart in the application process since you may have a connection with someone in the business as well as an understanding of what they offer.
And sometimes, you won’t be the one reaching out to them. If you continuously network with people in the restaurant industry, one day one of them might come to you and encourage you to apply for a supplier position because they think you’d be a great fit.
2. Managerial positions—hard work and initiative go hand in hand
You can’t expect promotions or raises if you’re not willing to put in the work for it—and taking on a managerial role in a restaurant will definitely require plenty of that. So you’ll need to go beyond just working hard to maintain your restaurant employment, you’ll need to take initiative.
You can be promoted from waitress to assistant manager to manager, but you must be skilled in both customer service and leadership. So be proactive. Memorize the menu, ask questions, eat at your restaurant as often as possible to really get to know the dishes.
Look for ways you can help, regardless of whether or not the tasks are part of your regular job. Not only will this help you gain additional skills, you’ll become a reliable asset, too. And when you can step in when the restaurant’s understaffed you’ll prove to your supervisor that you’re a valuable restaurant staff member who takes the job seriously. That way, you’ll gain enough trust to be the employee they rely on when the manager needs help or backup and eventually the person who fills the new manager position when the one you’ve been assisting leaves.
Especially during a time when restaurants are struggling to properly staff each shift, going the extra mile and taking the initiative in your role at a restaurant won’t go unnoticed.
Related: Technology to help manage your restaurant, end to end
3. Corporate positions—branching out
Even if you work hard and become the manager in charge of restaurant staff, your culinary career doesn’t have to end there. If you happen to work for a chain restaurant, there’s the potential of moving to more expanded positions such as district or regional manager. You could also transition into the corporate side of the brand in roles such as operations, and brand or sales to promote your restaurant.
In some of these roles, you’ll be able to learn not just how to run a restaurant, but increase other professional skills like human resources management, marketing, budgeting/accounting and sales representation. It’s a great way to not only work in the industry you love, but also provides you with a plan B if for whatever reason you decide to make a career change.
There are abundant opportunities in the restaurant industry
Becoming a supplier, manager or regional manager are just a few ways you can look for advanced roles in the restaurant industry. There are various positions and titles that you can be promoted to regardless of where you started at your restaurant. But simply by working at restaurant you’ll have a unique insider perspective that others outside the industry don’t have—giving you an edge when it comes to creating a resume that stands out.
It doesn’t matter where in the restaurant industry you start off because the opportunities are there, you just have to find them. Networking, taking the initiative and looking beyond the restaurant where you work are all key to a long, successful career in the restaurant industry. Combine them with a strong work ethic and the sky’s the limit.