Catering is an extremely appealing career option, so it’s not all too surprising that you’re here reading this piece on pursuing a role within the sector! The good news is that wherever there are people, there’s almost always going to be demand for dining and drinking out. After all, this is an area where we love to spend our cash! Not only do we need food and drink to survive, but establishments specialising in it give us somewhere to experience cuisine and dishes that we may not be able to craft or perfect ourselves at the same time as offering up a social spot where you can catch up with friends and family outside of the home. So, it’s time to find your role in this constantly flourishing area! Here’s everything you need to know.
Choosing an Area of Specialism
First things first, you need to settle on an area of specialism. This is by no means fixed, and there is always room for progression, but when you first head into the job market, it’s best to have a relatively good idea of what you want to do and where you want to do it. There are three major areas of work when it comes to catering: the accommodation sector, the food and drink industry, and food catering. Accommodation covers workplaces such as hotels and bed and breakfast establishments. The drink sector covers bars, pubs, cafes, tea houses and clubs. The last sector, food catering, is the most sprawling and expansive. If you head into catering, there’s a good chance that this is your best bet for getting work. It covers restaurants and various other eateries such as takeaways. As you can imagine, all of these sectors offer various roles. You may be working in the kitchens as a chef, porter, or pot wash. Perhaps you’ll be front of the house, serving as waiting staff or service assistants. While choosing a specialism may be difficult, it’s essential, as the roles of each individual in each different place will vary greatly and you’ll have to craft entirely different CVs for each position
Health and Safety
No matter where you work in the catering industry, you’re likely to have to follow strict health and safety regulations. Why? Well, to put things simply, you’re going to be dealing with other people and members of the general public on a daily basis, and you’re going to have to take on a certain level of responsibility for them. Sure, there’s going to be health and safety to take into account when it comes to food preparation. This is extremely serious and not to be taken lightly. When you are dealing with products that people are consuming, you have to take all precautions possible to ensure that what you offer them doesn’t cause them harm. You should find out if you need a food handler certification. In some states this an absolute essential, in others it is optional. However, either way, it is recommended. It will cover all sorts of ground, including good hygiene practices, prevention of contamination, prevention of cross-contamination, cooking times and food storage temperatures, and a thorough knowledge of what causes foodborne diseases, how to prevent these outbreaks, and how best to deal with them should they arise. Beyond food-based health and safety, you will also have to be aware of other forms of health and safety, such as how to deal with slips and trips in the workplace (when suffered by yourself, colleagues, or customers), how to deal with and store equipment and cleaning products, and other basic safety protocol.
Once you’ve got the health and safety basics out of the way, you’re generally good to go! There are courses out there that help you to train in very specific sectors such as cooking fine food, crafting desserts, or producing the perfect cup of coffee. However, most positions will offer on the job training where you learn as you go along. It’s important that you are still committed to this though. You need to take everything seriously in order to progress as your employer will expect you to. Remember that the better your performance, the more likely you are to receive tips or promotions in catering. This is a sector where it can be relatively easy to make your way up the career ladder, so invest your full effort from the start, and you will go far. Never be afraid to ask questions if you feel lost or unsure of something you’re doing. Your senior colleagues are there to help!
Nowadays, staff do tend to be expected to show flexibility in their roles. So be prepared to take on aspects of other roles should you need to. Every role is equally important and should someone not be able to work, other members of staff are generally expected to pull together to cover their responsibilities and tasks until their return. While you may not be given specific training in others’ job roles, you can always pick up tips and tricks by simply becoming familiar with exactly what it is that your colleagues do on a day to day basis and keeping an eye on how they go about things. You can then mimic their behaviour and habits should you need to carry out any of their work. This shows commitment to your establishment and highlights you as a particularly valuable member of staff.
While positions in catering are always there and carried out by a wide variety of individuals, it’s important that you don’t underestimate the work that will be involved in jumping into this industry. Remember that at times you may have to deal with difficult customers, difficult colleagues, and difficult situations. But at the end of the day, your hard work will pay off, and this can prove to be a viable and profitable career path. So, start looking for positions, applying for roles, and honing your craft. It won’t be all too long until you get your foot in the door of the industry!