How an entry-level restaurant job can launch your career
An entry-level position in a restaurant is often a person’s introduction to the workforce; the National Restaurant Association reports that one in three Americans got their first job in a restaurant. While some people view it as a temporary gig and go on to work in other industries, an entry-level job can also be the first stage of a successful career in hospitality. Gordon Lambourne, VP of Communications at the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation, shares some of the advantages of starting a hospitality career with an entry-level job in a restaurant.
Enter a thriving industry
There are more than 1 million restaurants in the U.S., and employment in restaurants is projected to grow to 16.3 million jobs by 2027, according to the National Restaurant Association. “There's a tremendous need for labor, so the jobs and the positions are there,” Lambourne says. Accepting an entry-level job allows you to get your foot in the door and start participating in the industry.
Find opportunities to advance
“There's a tremendous need for restaurant managers, whether it be for a large chain of restaurants or individual restaurants,” Lambourne says. The industry promotes people from within. The National Restaurant Association reports that 9 out of 10 restaurant managers once held entry-level restaurant positions and that 8 out of 10 restaurant owners say they got their start in entry-level positions.
Learn about hospitality
Working at an entry-level job gives you hands-on knowledge of the restaurant business. And because serving customers, preparing food, marketing, event planning, and other tasks often take place under the same roof, you immediately learn about many different facets of the business. “Everything that you need to know is literally right in front of you, so when you work at a restaurant, you are exposed to all aspects of that operation,” Lambourne says.
Entry-level employees can take what they learn and apply it in the next stages of their career. “In many of the entry-level jobs, you learn a lot of important skills that are transferable into management jobs, and even senior management jobs down the road,” Lambourne says.
Gain skills you can use anywhere
In addition to learning about the hospitality industry, entry-level employees gain interpersonal skills and develop a work ethic that can help them in any endeavor. “A lot of people come out of working in this business with some basic life skills that are very applicable, no matter what their career might be,” notes Lambourne.
Train as you work
People don’t need college degrees to work in restaurants, so they can begin their careers without first taking on debt. “There's kind of a college debt crisis happening in the country right now, and I think you're starting to see more people look for alternatives to a four-year college training or education experience before beginning a career,” Lambourne says.
Restaurant employees may choose to get hospitality or culinary training at some point, but many of the available programs are part-time or can be completed in less than four years. “That's a big plus for our industry,” Lambourne says, “that you can get in at an early level, entry level, and move up quickly from there, and then continue getting training and education, through the programs that are out there that don't necessarily require the expense or the time of a four-year degree.”
Lambourne encourages entry-level employees to learn as much as they can from their first job. “Take every day, every experience at the job, as an opportunity to learn something about how that business works and what it takes to be successful,” he says.