Getting Into the Food Industry: Challenges and Opportunities

Getting into the food industry can be a daunting task. The pressure of owning a small restaurant includes long hours, changes and constant uncertainty. For women, opening a restaurant also carries a higher level of skepticism due to a long-standing culture of misogyny that persists in the industry. When you first start looking for work, it can be overwhelming due to the sheer variety of opportunities available.

It's important to look for a job that aligns with your interests and past experience. During and before the onset of the novel coronavirus, working in the food and beverage industry presents specific challenges that make work physically and mentally demanding. Working in food service may have presented several additional challenges during the pandemic, such as meeting mask mandates, increasing exposure to coronavirus, reducing shifts or hours, reducing wages, and changing the ways and processes by which restaurants serve their customers. Fortunately, many restaurants are making changes to support talent shortages.

You can also make connections at professional meetings, such as the IFT & Food Expo Annual Meeting in Las Vegas in June, where you can ask for referrals from industry professionals you know, develop professional relationships for future opportunities, and learn about possible new opportunities. There are many different certifications that can be obtained as a professional in the food industry, such as ServSafe and HACCP. The best thing about the food industry is that its multifaceted nature offers numerous opportunities for lateral progression, which means you'll never have to get bored at work. While education is valuable, most food companies are also looking for people with experience, whether in quality assurance, research, development & production management.

It's a job where you always learn and read constantly, taste new recipes and step out of your comfort zone to succeed in the culture of food. As a food service professional during the pandemic, you may have faced the same challenges as before, in addition to enforcing mandates for masks and other safety measures, and simply having been exposed to the virus by working close to customers and co-workers. The process of preparing, cooking and cleaning food can mean that you are working for a long time and away from your family. Regardless of whether you're in or out of the classroom, you'll be working on a career path in a professional restaurant or in a food service environment, which means there are some important decisions you need to make before taking the next step in this demanding but extremely rewarding field. The best thing about many food manufacturing companies is that there are many different positions within the facility and companies prefer to hire from within. Long hours working on your feet, dealing with difficult customers, and keeping up with the fast pace of lunch and dinner can make food service jobs difficult, many of which pay little with few benefits. From manufacturing to marketing, from international trade to gastrointestinal sciences, there really is something for everyone in the food industry.

If you are a food science student or are about to graduate, you are likely to seek employment in the near future.

Claire Ence
Claire Ence

Avid coffee geek. Lifelong rock climbing maven. Hardcore foodie & travel junkie!