Become a Food Service Specialist: Career Guide

Mar 09, 2020

Find out how to become a food service specialist by watching this video. Learn about the training requirements and the experience you need to advance a career in the food service industry.

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Food Service Specialists

Food service specialists engage in food preparation, customer service and sanitation duties within facilities that serve food, including commercial restaurants, cafeterias and kitchens. This occupation can be physically demanding, with workers walking and standing for long periods of time. Workers may also have to lift full trays of food and drinks.

There's also greater risk of getting hurt on the job from cuts and burns when compared with other occupations. Daytime, evening, holiday and weekend work is common, as are part-time jobs in this field. Food service specialist jobs typically have a high turnover rate.

Career Requirements

Degree Level None required, but an education in the culinary arts may help with career advancement
Certification Food handling certification may be required for some positions or by state/local regulations
Experience Entry level; no experience necessary
Key Skills Stamina, ability to work as part of a team, customer service skills, verbal comprehension skills, basic computer skills, ability to use industrial kitchen tools and appliances
Salary (2018) $28,650 per year (median salary for all cooks)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2018); O*Net OnLine; Lewis County, Washington

A college degree isn't needed to work as a food service specialist, but an education in the culinary arts may help with advanced career development opportunities. In addition, food handling certification may be required for some positions or by state or local regulations. No experience is necessary to gain a position, though these are usually entry level.

Some of the key skills and abilities needed to succeed as a food service specialist include good stamina, the ability to work as part of a team, customer service skills, verbal comprehension skills, basic computer skills and the ability to use industrial kitchen tools and appliances.

As of February 2020, PayScale.com lists the national average salary for food service workers as $22,136 per year.

Step 1: Apply for Work

Food service specialist jobs are available in restaurants, hotels and in some bars. Schools, hospitals and large office buildings often have their own kitchens and hire food service workers as well. Those who wish to work in food service may find opportunities by searching online and in local newspapers, or by inquiring directly with food service establishments.

Success Tip:

  • Consider completing a food sanitation course. Completing a sanitation course and earning certification can increase the chances of finding work. Food service specialists may also have an easier time moving into a supervisory role, since some local and state governments require food service establishments to have at least one certified food handler on the premises during its hours of operation.

Step 2: Undergo Training

New food service workers usually complete a short on-the-job training program. The length of these programs varies, and training primarily consists of gaining hands-on instruction under the supervision of more experienced employees. Some establishments have formal training programs that may entail reading training manuals, watching videos or even completing an online course in addition to performing standard job tasks under supervision.

Step 3: Pursue Career Advancement

While not required, individuals who want to move into higher paying work within the food industry can apply for work as wait staff or bartenders. Others might want to become cooks or move into supervisory or managerial roles. Such promotions require experience in the field and demonstrated skills in food service.

Success Tip:

  • Complete hospitality or culinary training. Individuals who like the food industry but want to move beyond entry-level work in food service may want to attend postsecondary school to study hospitality management or cooking. Many community colleges and culinary schools offer certificate and associate's degree programs in these topics.

Becoming a food service specialist involves three simple steps; look for and apply for entry level work, undergo hands on training while on the job and look into pursuing career advancement by getting an education and gaining culinary or hospitality certification.

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