Become a Food Industry Consultant
A food industry consultant is an independent advisor who gives professional assistance to clients working in some aspect of the food industry. These clients might be restaurant owners, school cafeteria managers, hotel owners or professionals working in any area where food is served to the public.
Food industry consultants typically work with clients for a specific period of time and in pursuit of a particular goal. The scope and nature of the work is mutually agreed upon by both parties and so tasks and hours can vary from project to project. Food industry consultants often practice an area of specialty, such as food safety, kitchen design, culinary development, master planning or revenue generation. Travel is sometimes required.
A bachelor's degree in food industry management, hospitality or a related field may be helpful in gaining experience required for this field. Individuals must pass two exams to become professional members of the FCSI. Three years' of experience is required for FCSI membership. Key skills include attention to detail; leadership skills; and managerial, organizational, problem solving and speaking skills. It's important to have stamina and knowledge of accounting software, analytical software, databases, inventory management software, point-of-sale software, videoconferencing systems and liquid crystal display projectors. Additionally, knowledge of customer service, production and processing, training, sales and marketing, food production and health and fire regulations are important. According to Payscale.com, the median annual salary for all professional services consultants was $66,639 as of January 2016.
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Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree
Individuals who wish to become food industry consultants must first assemble a strong foundation of knowledge about management in the food industry. One effective means of doing this is to earn a bachelor's degree in food science, food industry management or another related field. Some organizations offer appropriate degree programs in this field online. Coursework in this field may include classes in food science, food processing, food chemistry, food microbiology, nutrition and management.
Join the FCSI as a student member. The FCSI has a membership option for college students who are enrolled in degree programs at accredited hospitality schools. Student membership in the FCSI may give college students the opportunity to meet other professionals in the field and familiarize themselves with the professional standards of the industry.
Step 2: Gain Experience Working in the Food Industry
In order to become a professional member of the FCSI, an individual must have at least three years of experience in the food service industry. Potential food industry consultants can gain that experience by working in a managerial capacity at a variety of work environments, including restaurants, school cafeterias, hospitals, fast food establishments and even some factories and offices. On-the-job experience may give potential food industry consultants practical experience in dealing with health inspections, personnel management issues, facility management and other issues covered in the FCSI entrance exam.
Earn certifications as required by your employer. Some employers may require individuals working in their business to earn certifications specifically related to their particular industries. For example, a restaurant manager may be required to get a Safe Food Certificate or a Serve Safe Alcohol Certificate. Specific certifications needed may differ by employer or by state.
Step 3: Attain a Position as an Employee of a Food Industry Consultant Firm
In order to become a professional member of the FCSI, an individual must work his or her way up in the professional hierarchy of food industry consultants. According to the instructions of the FCSI, one way to do that is to seek employment with a food industry consulting firm. At this level, the employee may work in any job available at the firm, including such positions as research assistant, systems analyst and CAD operator, as well as positions that relate more closely to food preparation and site management. In order to advance in the profession, a person employed by a food industry consultant firm should strive for opportunities to become a project manager.
Decide on a specialization. Most food industry consultants are specialists in a particular topic related to the food industry. These topics range from kitchen design or facility assessment to code compliance or food safety and hygiene. Over forty topics in which a prospective food industry consultant may specialize are available.
Step 4: Become an Associate Member of the FCSI
Before becoming a professional member of the FCSI, an aspiring food industry consultant may become an associate member. Associate members have access to professional journals and publications put out by the FCSI and the opportunity to network with other professionals in the field. They also have the opportunity to attend seminars and other continuing education opportunities. Once an FCSI associate member has begun to serve as project manager while employed by a food industry consultant firm, that individual is qualified to become a senior associate member of the FCSI. This is a necessary prerequisite for becoming a full professional member.
Participate in continuing education opportunities. Members of the FCSI must maintain their membership by completing a certain number of continuing education units per year. They may do so by attending seminars or trade shows, authoring professional publications or leading workshops.
Step 5: Join the FCSI as a Professional Member
Once an individual has been employed for three years as a project manager in a food industry consulting firm and has been established as a senior associate member of the FCSI, that person is eligible to become a professional member of the FCSI. In order to complete this process a candidate must pass two exams, subscribe to the FCSI code of ethics and present three positive reference checks. Individuals who succeed in becoming professional members of the FCSI will be eligible to receive professional referrals from FCSI headquarters for individuals seeking the help of qualified and vetted food industry consultants.
In short, becoming a food industry consultant requires earning a bachelor's degree, gaining managerial experiences for up to three years working for a consulting firm, becoming an associate member of the FCSI and then joining the FCSI as a professional member.