Many of us get our professional starts in restaurants, where we learn teamwork, customer service, unflappability, and hustle -- so much hustle -- while helping our customers cut loose and have a good time. The energy of restaurants can be addictive, as can working with food and drink day in and day out.
But even if you’re not looking for a long-term career in the hospitality industry, restaurant experience can set you up for success in many different types of jobs. Here are six roles you could land after you’ve waited tables, worked the stove, or managed a bar.
If you wait tables or tend bar, you’re already a salesperson: you guide people toward better choices, and you’ve likely honed the art of the upsell, merely by suggesting drinks and sides. You can parlay that experience into a sales role by emphasizing your hustle, your conversation skills, your willingness to ask for money, and your ability to listen for cues and help a customer build an experience that fits their needs.
While that’s enough of an overlap to escape the restaurant industry entirely, if you so desire, if you stick around long enough, sales recruiters might even come after you: liquor distributors frequently hire friendly bartenders to peddle their wares, and kitchen outfitters like working with chefs who can talk to other chefs.
In any front-of-house position, customer service is the main thrust of your job. You anticipate snags, liaise with the kitchen on behalf of patrons, head off problems, and occasionally deal with angry customers, all while juggling the rhythm of a dining room. That makes you a good fit for customer service positions, which require unflappability in the face of ire, trust-building, and problem-solving
Ever showed a new employee the ropes of the job? Helped them hone their menu pitch while they shadowed you? Taught them to use their knife better while assigning them to tasks? Training is all about giving a new hire the tools they need to succeed at their job -- if you’ve been a restaurant manager, have gone further and distilled those steps for a manual, or are particularly good at teaching, you could easily bring your skills into a training department.
In most organizations, the Human Resources department breaks into many different functions, but you’ve likely gotten a taste of just about all of them if you’ve managed a restaurant or a kitchen. You’ve interviewed, hired, and fired. You’ve put together performance plans. You’ve coached, trained, and promoted. You’ve dealt with difficult situations between employees, or between employees and customers. You may have even administered benefits. Clearly enumerate these skills on a resume, and you’ll have a foot in the door for an HR job.
Are you a cook who’s constantly Instagramming your dishes to lure people into your restaurant? A bartender who’s putting every drink on Facebook? These are all experiences that might give you a leg up in a social media coordinator position, especially in the food and drink space, since you have good awareness of the industry trends and offerings that entice your customers.
Restaurants are great at teaching systems, processes, organization, people skills, and time management, which are the skills essential to success in operations. Put your hustle, your ability to streamline every trip through the dining room, and your wizardry at soothing crisis situations to use. A great place to start: land an administrative assistant role. Check out our guide to nabbing that job without experience.