Food service jobs

Learn about the food service industry and different kinds of food service jobs. Read about the different career paths you can take in the food and restaurant industries. Find out what training you need and where to start your job search. Learn about newcomers who start their own food service businesses.

Food service is sometimes called the catering industry, the restaurant business, or hospitality. More than 14 million people work in the food service industry, and many jobs are easy to get into. The food service industry is growing because Americans enjoy going to out to eat with their family and friends.

Which food service job?

Here are some jobs and careers you can consider in the food service industry:

  • Food service assistant – food service assistants prepare and serve food and drinks to customers in all kinds of places from cafeterias to expensive restaurants. They also have to help with bills and keep the kitchen clean and tidy.
  • Restaurant cook – a restaurant cook is someone who prepares and cooks meals in cafes or small restaurants. They do everything from buying ingredients to cooking complete meals. In larger restaurants, they help the senior cooks with preparing fruits and vegetables and many other tasks.
  • Waitress or waiter – waiting tables involves describing the menu, taking orders, and serving food. It’s a good job for someone with an outgoing personality who likes dealing with the public. In the United States, servers receive tips as well as pay. Find out how to be a restaurant server.
  • Butcher – a butcher cuts meat professionally for stores and restaurants. Butchers prepare, price, and display the meat. They must be able to concentrate and pay close attention to the tasks at hand.
  • Chef chef is another name for a trained professional cook. Chefs must have excellent attention to detail for following recipes and keeping track of cooking supplies. Some chefs specialize in sauces or grilled food. Pastry chefs specialize in cakes and desserts. A sous chef is someone who works under an executive chef and assists with many duties.
  • Host or hostess – a host or hostess handles reservations and greets customers.  The take customers to their tables, gives them a menu and generally makes them feel comfortable. Hosting is an entry-level job, and employers will be looking for a friendly and reliable person rather than great experience.
  • Restaurant manager – a restaurant manager is someone who manages the whole restaurant and makes sure everything runs smoothly. They oversee staff, order supplies, sometimes deal with customers and handle marketing and finances. Find out how to become a restaurant manager.

Watch a video about how an immigrant family started their food business


Is food service the right job for me?

Working in food service will allow you to meet and interact with people of different backgrounds. The work maybe hectic sometimes, and some customers may be difficult to handle. Staying cool under pressure and a positive attitude are good qualities for people in this career. Many food service jobs offer flexible hours so you can schedule your work around school, family, and other activities. You can take the self-assessment test at to see if the job suits you.

Where do I start?

Most people gain experience in food service, especially in restaurants, by starting at the bottom and gradually working their way up. The good thing about food service is that you can get into many jobs without training or experience. So if you need a job right away, it’s a good choice because there is usually a demand for unskilled workers in the industry. But if you love cooking, or would like to get into a management position, you will need to get some certifications or experience first.

Training and skills

For entry level jobs, such as food service assistant, dishwashing, and waiting tables, no particular training is required, Most employers will give on-the-job training to their new staff. Gaining a high school diploma will help you get the job. You can also get other training and credentials that will help.

Food safety training and certificates

A good first step for getting a job in food service is to get a certificate for safe food handling. It shows that you understand food safety regulations and that you have been trained to keep food safely. In some states (California, Illinois, Arizona, West Virginia, Texas, and New Mexico) it is the law for food handlers to have this training.

The certificate you need is an ANSI Accreditation for Food Safety. You will need to find an ANSI-accredited program. One of these accredited programs is ServSafe, which is run by the National Restaurant Association. But there are many other accredited programs. Find food safety classes in your state or online food safety certificates.

Cooking and management training

While some restaurant cooks and chefs have received culinary training, others gained their experience working in restaurants. Many start with entry-level positions and work hard to move up the ladder.

If you are interested in restaurant management, you will need some credentials. There are many two-year management and administration courses available. Find a community college near you.

Watch the owner of Diaspora Coffee explain why he wants to help refugees and immigrants


Learn online

There are many opportunities to learn online about the restaurant business. Online schools will help you build your communications skills and learn about managing a restaurant.  For example, Coursera offers online courses in food and beverage management.

 Find a class near you

What else do I need?

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Start your job search

Here some ways to start your job search:

  • Use your local employment center
    Government employment centers in every city are free. They offer advice and keep a list of local jobs. They help with resumes and job applications. They can connect you with food service job training and education. Find your nearest employment center.
  • Look online is an employment site that helps people find hourly jobs in food service and other industries.

The future of food service – be your own boss!

Would you like to work in food service and start your own business? Do you have a food specialty – maybe a traditional food from your home country?

Food trucks are mobile kitchens for cooking and serving food. Food trucks serve freshly cooked food, often with an ethnic theme – food from your home country can be new and interesting to Americans. Every year, the number of food trucks around the country grows. They are very popular as an alternative to restaurants. If you are a good cook or know somebody who cooks delicious meals, it would be great to collaborate on this idea. A food truck would also make a good family business. Read about the Spice Kitchen Incubator: training refugees to be food truck entrepreneurs. Learn how to start a food truck business.

We aim to offer easy to understand information that is updated regularly. This information is not legal advice.