Article: Food and Drink Careers
This article covers the following jobs:
- Catering/Restaurant Manager
- Food Scientist/Technologist
- Food Service Assistant
- Food Technician
- Kitchen Assistant
- Retail Butcher
- Technical Brewer
The job descriptions are only a brief summary. It is recommended that you do further research on jobs that interest you.
Providing meals and drinks
You don't need to go far in any town or city to find places to eat or drink. From fast food cafés to pubs, tea rooms and restaurants, there is somewhere to suit every taste and budget.
Providing meals and drinks to customers involves a number of people performing different functions, from those who work 'behind the scenes' buying and preparing food or drink, to those who serve it.
This type of work often involves working shifts. Evening and weekend work is also common.
A barperson serves customers with alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. They might also sell snacks and food.
At the start of a shift, the barperson makes sure that there are enough bottles on the shelves, and that the bar is clean and tidy. When customers have finished their drinks, the barperson collects the empty glasses and puts them in a glass-washing machine.
A barperson might also take orders for, and serve, bar meals. They also take payments for food and drink, operate a till and give change.
To become a barperson, you don't normally need any qualifications. Number skills are useful, however. Training is usually on-the-job from another member of staff.
Catering/restaurant managers are responsible for the smooth running and profitability of a catering or restaurant operation. They work in places like restaurants, hotels, hospitals or fast food outlets. They are responsible for customer satisfaction, the standards of service and the quality of food.
Catering/restaurant managers organise and supervise shifts to make sure that enough staff are on-call to serve meals and wash up at each sitting. They might deal with customers personally, for example, welcoming guests, organising table reservations and dealing with complaints.
They set budgets to achieve sales and profit targets and promote the restaurant to potential customers. They are also responsible for health and safety, and maintaining standards of hygiene and quality control.
One route to becoming a catering/restaurant manager is to complete a relevant HND, foundation degree or degree and then apply for a management training scheme. Some training programmes are also open to people with fewer qualifications. You might also be able to work your way up from another job such as chef, barperson or waiter/waitress.
Chefs/cooks prepare and cook food. They work in many different organisations; their job title varies depending on where they work. For example, chefs normally work in hotels and restaurants, while cooks work in schools and hospitals.
In large kitchens, there are different types of chef. Head chefs run the kitchen. Sous chefs deputise in the absence of the head chef and supervise the kitchen.
Chefs de partie run a section of the kitchen, such as sauces, vegetables or pastries, and they are responsible for preparing, cooking and presenting a range of dishes.
Commis or trainee chefs prepare and cook the less complicated dishes. They might also clean equipment and wash up.
Chefs/cooks might have to manage staff and budgets, order supplies and plan menus. All chefs/cooks follow strict standards of hygiene and health and safety in the kitchen.
There are various entry routes to this job. Some restaurants require candidates to have completed a full-time, college-based course. Other employers offer chef training schemes with varying entry requirements. Training opportunities are also available through Intermediate Level Apprenticeships and Advanced Level Apprenticeships.
Food Service Assistant
Food service assistants are involved in various aspects of delivering food to customers, depending on the kind of place they work in. For example, many work in fast food outlets, preparing food, serving customers from behind a counter and clearing tables.
They might work in teams (sometimes called 'crews') and spend a couple of hours doing one task, before swapping over with another team member and doing something different.
You don't need any qualifications to get a job as a food service assistant, but good spoken English and ability with numbers are useful. Training is usually on-the-job.
Publicans run places such as pubs, bars and clubs where alcoholic drinks are served to the public. They train and supervise staff, order supplies, maintain the building and promote the business.
They manage stock, work alongside the staff and lock up at night. They might also run other services such as serving food and providing entertainment and accommodation.
An important aspect of the work involves the financial side of the business such as budgeting and book-keeping. They are also responsible for keeping up to date with the relevant health and safety, consumer protection and food safety legislation.
Often people working in bars and pubs gain promotion and qualifications within the industry. Pub management trainee schemes are also available (entry requirements vary).
A sommelier is a trained and knowledgeable wine expert, who is involved with all aspects of wine service. They work in upmarket restaurants and wine bars. A sommelier has more knowledge than a wine waiter.
Sommeliers advise customers on the best choice of wine to have with their meal, according to what they are eating, which types of wine they normally enjoy and how much they want to spend. The sommelier takes the wine order and serves it to the customer.
Sommeliers also buy the wines and work with the chef to decide which wines go best with different dishes. They create and update wine lists.
They also deal with deliveries and storage of the wine, and keep records of the stock.
Sommeliers also visit vineyards abroad and go to wine fairs, where they are responsible for selecting and buying the most appropriate wines.
Most sommeliers enter the industry after gaining skills working in restaurants or bars, and learning on-the-job, or by taking formal training in wine studies.
Waiters/waitresses serve food and drink to customers. They work in restaurants, bars or hotels.
They clean and lay tables, take orders, recommend dishes, serve food and drink, clear tables, prepare bills and take money.
Head restaurant waiters/waitresses are in charge of the waiting team. They direct and supervise the table service, and are responsible for ensuring customer satisfaction. They might serve important guests themselves.
There are no minimum entry requirements, but good maths and English are useful. Training is usually on-the-job.
Kitchen assistants do the routine work in kitchens. They wash the pots and pans and clean the kitchen. They might receive deliveries, keep the stores and deliver food and equipment around the kitchen.
They might also do basic food preparation, such as preparing vegetables and weighing ingredients. They are responsible, along with the chefs, for the day-to-day cleanliness and hygiene of the kitchen.
You don't normally need any educational qualifications to do this job.
Training is usually done on-the-job with possible day-release to get qualifications in food safety or cooking. Promotion could be to trainee chef positions.
Manufacturing of food and drink
There are some job roles that involve working with food and drink long before it has been served or sold to the public.
These types of jobs might involve making sure the food and drink is made correctly, and that it is safe, of good quality and can be stored, if appropriate.
Quite often, these jobs involve the use of machinery or an understanding of the processes and ingredients involved in making food or drink. Knowledge of science may also be necessary, for example, for researching or testing food and drink products.
Bakers prepare, bake and finish a range of bread, pastries, cakes and savouries.
In large automated bakeries, machinery is used to prepare the dough and then pass it through different processes. These include moulding, proving (rising the dough), baking, cooling, slicing and wrapping.
In smaller craft bakeries, a greater variety of goods are produced. Tasks such as dipping éclairs in chocolate, and decorating fancy cakes have to be done by hand.
Bakers have to follow hygiene, health, and safety regulations and wear protective clothing - usually a white coat or apron and a hat.
Qualifications are not always required for entry to this work. However, GCSEs (or equivalent) in English, Maths, and Design and Technology (Food Technology) are useful. It is often important to show an interest in cooking and home economics.
Some people enter this career via an Intermediate Level Apprenticeship in Food Manufacture.
Food scientists are experts on the biological, chemical and physical make-up of food, and how food can be processed, stored and preserved. Food technologists apply this knowledge to make new food products and ensure that they are safe and of good quality.
Although food scientists are more likely to go into research, and food technologists into production, the division between them is not clear-cut. Both may work in research and development, production, and quality assurance management.
To become a food scientist/technologist, you usually need a relevant degree, foundation degree or higher national qualification.
Food technicians help scientists/technologists to develop food products. Technicians test the safety and quality of raw materials and finished products, as well as testing packaging, processing and storage techniques.
They look after the day-to-day running of the laboratory, and may also help in the research and development of new products.
The usual minimum entry requirements for a trainee position are four GCSEs (A*-C), including English, Maths and a science subject.
Technical brewers are responsible for producing good quality beer and related products.
They know all about the raw materials, such as hops and yeast, and the process of turning raw materials into the final product.
Much of the work involves controlling the brewing process. Brewers do this by working closely with a laboratory team, who perform tests on samples of beer.
Accurate records must be kept, showing times of the various stages in the production process and the amount of the raw materials used.
Technical brewers wear protective clothing and work in hot or cold, noisy and wet conditions when they are overseeing the production process.
Recruitment into technical brewing is mainly at graduate level.
Giving advice on food and drink
It's not always easy to know what we should or shouldn't be eating or drinking these days, with all the different advice and opinions on healthy living.
Some people have to follow special diets; this could be if they have a specific health issue or need, or if they are a sports professional, for example.
There are, therefore, some careers that involve advising people on what to eat or drink for health reasons.
Nutritionists help us to understand how nutrition affects our health. They work in lots of areas, including the NHS, sports nutrition, the food industry and animal nutrition.
NHS nutritionists often work in the community, helping people to prevent problems such as cancer, stroke and diabetes. They might run healthy eating sessions, teach cooking skills and produce information about a healthy diet.
In the food industry, nutritionists research and develop new food products. They advise on food products' nutritional content, such as how much fat and salt they have in them.
The right diet can help sports professionals to train and perform at their best. Nutritionists work with athletes and players, and also give people advice in the fitness industry.
Animal nutritionists look at ways to improve the quality and quantity of things like eggs, meat and milk. They also try to improve pets' diets.
To become a nutritionist, you'll usually need a degree or postgraduate qualification in nutrition or a relevant biological science.
Dietitians give people information and advice about the right diet to maintain their health or to help them cope with or overcome an illness.
Dietitians may be based in hospitals or the community. Hospital work mainly involves diet therapy for individual patients, such as people with food allergies or diabetes. They also train and advise other health professionals in the hospital.
In the community, a dietitian might be involved in clinical work or health promotion, or a mixture of both. For example, they might work with health professionals such as GPs, practice nurses and health visitors. Health promotion might include giving talks in schools or to groups such as slimming clubs and pregnant women.
Dietitians work in lots of other areas, including sports nutrition, the food and pharmaceutical industries, education, research and journalism.
Qualification is through a recognised degree or postgraduate course in dietetics and/or nutrition.
Retail selling of food and drink
Working in a shop that serves and sells food and drink often requires specialist knowledge; for example, you might need to advise a customer on how to prepare or store an item, suggest which types of food or drink go well with others, or explain unfamiliar items.
Strict hygiene and health and safety standards are usually required for these types of jobs.
Retail butchers cut, store and display meat in a shop, market or supermarket. They are responsible for using sharp tools and machinery safely and for keeping the tools and work areas clean and hygienic. They also serve customers, and some butchers deal with money.
Butchers often have to package the meat and poultry and prepare labels showing the weight and price. They display the meat in refrigerated cabinets, and monitor the temperature. They might also prepare processed meat products such as sausages, pies and burgers.
Retail butchers need to be physically fit and should not suffer from skin allergies. They should be able to cope with the sight of blood, and need a steady hand.
There is no formal minimum entry requirement, although applicants usually need at least basic English, maths and science. Some employers might prefer applicants to have some GCSEs.
A fishmonger selects and buys fish from a wholesaler and prepares it by hand for retail sales. This involves removing scales, skin and bones and gutting the fish.
Fishmongers advise customers about different types of common fish and shellfish and how best to store and cook them; they sometimes give out recipe leaflets.
They have to maintain strict standards of hygiene, and health and safety. Fishmongers use tools and equipment such as knives, tongs, fish slices, sharpening tools and pliers; these have to be cleaned and well looked after.
Many of the opportunities for fishmongers occur on fish counters in supermarkets.
Most employers prefer a good basic standard of education, including English and maths.
Other work involving food and drink
There is a wide range of other jobs where, as part of your job, you might work with food and drink.
This could include, for example, serving, handling, buying, delivering, promoting or selling food or drink, as well as checking that people who work with it are following the correct laws.
Other roles involve designing and making the packages, containers or bottles that food or drink might go in.
Hospitality Guild (People 1st)
Institute of Hospitality (IoH)
Address: Trinity Court, 34 West Street, Sutton, Surrey SM1 1SH
Tel: 020 8661 4900
British Hospitality Association (BHA)
Tel: 020 7404 7744
Caterer: Hospitality careers
Publisher: Totaljobs Group Ltd
Institute of Food Science & Technology (IFST)
Address: 5 Cambridge Court, 210 Shepherds Bush Road, London W6 7NJ
Tel: 020 7603 6316
British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA)
Address: Ground Floor, Brewers' Hall, Aldermanbury Square, London EC2V 7HR
Tel: 020 7627 9191
Federation of Bakers (FOB)
Address: 6 Catherine Street, London WC2B 5JW
Tel: 020 7420 7190
Food and Drink Federation (FDF)
Address: 6 Catherine Street, London WC2B 5JJ
Tel: 020 7836 2460
The Food and Drink Training and Education Council (FDTEC)
Address: PO Box 6404, Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire LU7 6DX
Tel: 01525 371641
Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET)
Address: International Wine & Spirit Centre, 39-45 Bermondsey Street, London SE1 3XF
Tel: 020 7089 3800
Worshipful Company of Butchers
Address: Butchers' Hall, 87 Bartholomew Close, London EC1A 7EB
Tel: 020 7600 4106
British Nutrition Foundation (BNF)
Address: High Holborn House, 52-54 High Holborn, London WC1V 6RQ
Tel: 020 7404 6504
National Skills Academy for Food & Drink
Sector Skills Council for the food and drinks industry
National Federation of Fishmongers (NFF)
Address: PO Box 9639, Colchester, Essex CO5 9WR
Tel: 01376 571391
Livestock & Meat Commission for Northern Ireland (LMC)
Northern Ireland Enquiries
Address: Lissue House, 31 Ballinderry Road, Lisburn BT28 2SL
Tel: 028 9263 3000
Nutritionists in Industry (NII)
Nutrition Society (NS)
Address: 10 Cambridge Court, 210 Shepherds Bush Road, London W6 7NJ
Tel: 020 7602 0228
Address: Atholl House, 4 Torphichen Street, Edinburgh EH3 8JQ
Tel: 0131 2291401
Worshipful Company of Bakers
Address: Bakers' Hall, Harp Lane, London EC3R 6DP
Tel: 020 7623 2223
National Federation of Meat & Food Traders (NFMFT)
Address: 1 Belgrove, Tunbridge Wells, Kent TN1 1YW
Tel: 01892 541412
Scottish Craft Butchers
Address: 8-10 Needless Road, Perth PH2 0JW
Tel: 01738 637472
Scottish Meat Training
Address: 8-10 Needless Road, Perth PH2 0JW
Tel: 01738 637785
Food and drink careers
Address: 6 Catherine Street, London WC2B 5JJ
Tel: 020 7420 7140
Taste Success Case Studies
Address: 6 Catherine Street, London WC2B 5JJ
Tel: 020 7836 2460