The 5 useful skills you’ll learn working in food service

Food service - Chef looking at a tomato
Image courtesy of luigi diamante/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

My first food service job was at a sub shop near Boston, Massachusetts in the late 1990’s.

Granted, it wasn’t Le Cordon Bleu, but it did show me the basics of how to prepare, store, and serve food. Those were fun and carefree days of cutting the cheese and asking if customers wanted “hots” on their “grinders“. I made all sorts of hot and cold subs.

I also mastered the art of making a “Philly cheesesteak” or as we call them in New England, a steak and cheese:

 

However, I still enjoy preparing food AND getting paid for it, eventhough I am not a chef. Instead, I am a freelance social media consultant and Web content writer who just happens to really enjoy cooking, too.

And I figured since I enjoy it so much, then I might as well cook at a restaurant as a side hustle in order to get money.

I’ve also found that working in food service will not only give you a paycheck, but other useful skills and practical knowledge you will use for the rest of your life.

With a shaky global economy and a diminishing job market, it’s more important than ever to gain as much work experience and education (either in school or on-the-job) as possible NOW while you are still relatively young, healthy, and able-minded.

The more useful skills you have, the more likely you will achieve your dream of long-term success and happiness. (Right?)

Here are 5 useful skills you’ll learn working in food service:

5. Learn how to cook 

Sometimes you can learn new skills from a book that you purchased using The Idea Hunters.net Amazon affiliate link:

Or a TV show, like Mystery Diners on Food Network:

 

However, the only way to truly master these new skills is by actually using them and seeing what leads to success or failure.

I enjoy cooking and do it often, since I typically eat at least three meals per day. I learned how to cook from many sources, such as my parents, watching Food Network, reading cooking blogs, and of course, working in kitchens both in college and currently as a side hustle.

Cooking is a life skill that will be useful time and time again. That’s why working in a professional kitchen is a great way to learn handy cooking techniques that you can use at home or to find work in other restaurants.

4. Learn how to successfully run a business

Food service - chefs giving the thumbs up in a restaurant kitchen
Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s no secret that running a restaurant is hard work.

According to the latest statistics, about 57% of restaurants fail within the first three years of operating.

That’s because there are many moving pieces that all need to sync to make the business a profitable operation, such as:

  • Quality of product
  • Staff
  • Physical location
  • Marketing

If you work in a restaurant kitchen, you will have a first-hand look at how a business is run. Alternatively, you might see how a business should NOT be run.

For more information on how to run a restaurant, check out 50mistakes.com. This helpful resource for restaurant owners is run by chef and restaurant consultant Marcus Giuliano. He offers helpful videos and other useful content with advice on how to successfully run a restaurant.

Bonus fact:

The website 50mistakes.com is a great example of inbound marketing.

Instead of just promoting his restaurant on his website, Chef Giuliano is instead giving restaurant owners educational content and helping them with their lives.

By doing so, Chef Giuliano is strengthening his brand and positioning himself as a restaurant expert.

Typically, people will pay experts to help them solve problems.

Are you an expert at something?

Then you can make cash money for it!

3. Learn how to work in a team

Some food service operations can be operated by just one person, such as running a hot dog cart:

 

However, most restaurants employ several food service employees.

Each employee must work together in order to create a quality dining experience for customers.

If customers enjoyed the dining experience, then they will return and may even tell others about the pleasant dining experiences. And THOSE people may visit the restaurant and give you money to make them food as well.

However, even if one member of the restaurant team fails, and nobody picks up the slack, then this mistake could be detrimental for the restaurant’s success.

That’s why teamwork is so crucial in a restaurant kitchen or in any business.

Good teammates can:

  • Help you when you need it
  • Train you to learn new skills
  • Motivate you to reach your potential

2. Learn how to be a leader

Chef holding chopsticks
Image courtesy of imagerymajestic/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

All restaurant kitchens have leaders that train and teach others how to cook the dishes served by the restaurant. If these leaders are weak, then the food will also be weak and the restaurant will inevitably fail.

The more you learn from good leaders, the more likely you will become one. And we could always use more good leaders up in here.

1. Learn how to maximize your job opportunities

Food service - young couple cooking
Image courtesy of imagerymajestic, / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Take a look at job postings online and you will see a LOT for jobs in the food service industry.

Some of these jobs are glamorous, such as a sommelier or restaurant critic.

However, some of the jobs are not glamorous, such as a prep cook, dishwasher, or oyster shucker.

But regardless, these are all jobs that are crucial to a restaurant’s success.

And since most restaurant owners are in the business to be successful, then they would be more apt to give a job to somebody with restaurant or food service experience.

By having at least some food service and cooking experience you will widen your job prospects if the worst possible scenario occurs, such as:

  • A real estate downturn
  • Accidents
  • Sickness
  • Layoffs
  • Your company closing
  • Unforeseen financial hardship

Conclusion

Make no mistake, working in a restaurant kitchen is not for everyone.

But the only way to determine if it’s right for YOU is by trying it, even if it’s on a part-time basis.

Time spent in a professional cooking environment will teach you many useful lessons and sharpen your practical business skills to better prepare you for whatever twists and turns lie ahead in your career.

Have you ever worked in the food service industry?

What useful life skills have you learned? Write about it in the comments and let’s get this party started!

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James K. Kim About James K. Kim
James "Jim" Kim is a commercial real estate agent with Cushman & Wakefield / Pyramid Brokerage Company in the Capital Region of New York, specializing in retail, office, and industrial tenant and landlord representation.

7 thoughts on “The 5 useful skills you’ll learn working in food service

  1. Awesome read, Jim!

    I find this line rings very true. “Each employee must work together in order to create a quality dining experience for customers.” If someone drops the ball, you drop it as a team. You help each other get back up to crush the next rush.

    When you’re working with a bunch of crazy passionate people, it shows. Your managers see it, you feel it and your customers can taste it.

    We recently wrote a similar post on some skills gained from working in restaurants. Would love your thoughts!
    http://7shifts.com/blog/4-skills-gained-restaurant-industry/

    1. Thank you JB for your feedback and I’m happy to see that my advice on how to be a successful line cook rings true with your fine establishment as well! I’m going to hop on over to the article you posted up in your comment and we’ll continue the convo over there, where the food is!

Thoughts?