America's restaurant and foodservice industry provides jobs and careers for 13 million people - 10 percent of our nation's workforce. While restaurants serve as a stepping stone for many - one in three Americans got their first job experience in a restaurant - it's also an industry of tremendous opportunity, where individuals of all backgrounds are given the opportunity to move up the ladder and succeed. In fact, 80 percent of restaurant owners began their careers as hourly workers in the industry.
When people think of careers in the restaurant and foodservice industry, positions such as servers, bartenders and chefs most likely come to mind. The industry's careers are wide-ranging, however, and stretch beyond the four walls of a traditional restaurant.
A catering manager, for instance, plans every piece of a catered event, from origination to execution, including renting tables and equipment, coordinating decorations and photographs, as well as booking entertainment. A person in this role needs not only knowledge of food production and customer service, but also the skills to generate new business and ensure an event runs smoothly and efficiently.
Similarly, a food and beverage director is in charge of overseeing the management, budget and operation of a foodservice outlet, catering services and kitchen. He or she must also communicate with the sales department to ensure maximum profitability.
Employment in the restaurant industry is expected to grow to 14.4 million by 2023, according to the National Restaurant Association. In order to hire and train all those employees, the restaurant and foodservice industry needs human resources managers, a role that requires recruiting and hiring qualified employees, creating in-house job-training programs and assisting employees with their career needs.
These are not your typical restaurant jobs but are equally fulfilling careers, many of which require specialized training to be successful. Many colleges and universities offer degrees and diploma programs in hospitality management. Even high school students can get a head start through summer jobs or programs like ProStart, the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation's (NRAEF) two-year program that trains students to go on to pursue culinary and restaurant management careers. Approximately 95,000 students across more than 1,900 schools nationwide participate in the program.
Jessica Doerffel, food and beverage director at Elways, a restaurant at The Ritz-Carlton in Denver, started busing tables as a teenager and then enrolled in her school's ProStart program.
"The thought of taking a curriculum based on hospitality was unheard of in high school, so I jumped at the chance," Doerffel says, adding that she completed several internships at hotels, including Marriott International, while in college.
After college, Doerffel rose through the ranks at Marriott, eventually landing a position as the food and beverage director at The Ritz-Carlton.
Others spend time learning the ins and outs of the food and beverage business, so they can teach.
Sissy Ivy worked more than 15 years in the food industry to put herself through college, eventually becoming a ProStart educator at the Sevier County Career and Technical Education Center in Sevierville, Tenn. She not only teaches students culinary and management skills, but also oversees the students as they operate their own cafe and catering business, with all proceeds benefitting the program and local charities.
Ivy's hard work and commitment to the industry earned her national recognition as one of only three winners of the 2013 Faces of Diversity American Dream Award, presented by the NRAEF and PepsiCo Foodservice. To learn more about the award and to nominate inspirational employees and peers in the industry, visit NRAEF.org/Awards.
As teenagers and young adults prepare to become their own success stories within the food and beverage industry, many will begin to identify opportunities outside of the four walls of a restaurant. Whether-working in the front of the house or in a traditional office, the industry offers plenty of opportunities to pursue their passion.