Whether you’re looking for a part-time summer job or a lifelong career, the service industry can be a rewarding and enriching path.
Restaurant jobs are some of the highest paying jobs you can find that don’t require a college degree, and being an essential part of a great team of employees is an excellent way to make a living. It’s all about finding your niche.
Sometimes you just want to get something to eat that’s quick and easy, you know? That’s where the short order cook comes in. Comfort food is their specialty.
Short order cooks usually don’t hide in the back of the house. They can be found standing at a flat-top grill, cooking up food for folks who are sitting on stools across the counter at the diner — or maybe even in the back of a food truck.
2. Prep Cook
If you’re handy with a knife and find your zen in a perfectly sliced green pepper, then maybe this aspect of the business is for you.Prep cooks not only wash and stock veggies, or fill ramekins and measure condiments, but they also assist in food preparation.
Becoming a prep cook is a great way to gain experience before jumping on the line.
3. Line Cook
Can you handle the heat? You know which steaks are medium and which are rare and how to manage your time while preparing them both — along with a range of other menu items for multiple tickets.
Whatever the menu, you know your station well, how to stock it, and how to clean it. Reporting to the Sous Chef, you’re right in the heart of the action.
4. Sous Chef
Seasoned professionals know it’s all about the sauce. This position is highly competitive and involves a bit more than just preparing port wine reductions and marinades. Great sous chefs not only perform culinary feats under pressure, but they are also creative masterminds and team leaders.
Many of them come with four-year degrees from accredited institutions and are ready to hit the ground running.
If you’re thinking of becoming an Executive Chef then you have probably been in this industry for many years and have all of your recipes down to a science. You know the back of the house like the back of your hand and you’re a team leader and show grace under pressure. Basically, you are the restaurant.
6. Pastry Chef
Do you have four different kinds of sugar in your cabinet? Maybe that sweet tooth of yours is an indication that you would make the perfect pastry chef. Like most jobs in the back of the house, preparing delicious baked good takes creativity and coordination.
Most successful chefs have studied at an academy or have had on-the-job training with a mentor. They can measure ingredients by eye and know when the bread is done by smell alone.
This is a paint-by-numbers situation. While creativity isn’t required, the fast-food industry has changed dramatically in the past decade, ushering in a renaissance of meals on wheels options for those that want to eat quality food on the go. We’re talking about food trucks.
There are a lot of opportunities out there for part-time cooks who are thinking outside the jack-in-the-box, if you know what I mean.
As you might expect, the manager oversees all of the back-of-house operations. They hire new employees, track inventory, and place food orders. Usually, the executive chef is also the kitchen manager, but some larger restaurants will appoint a back-of-house manager just to have one designated problem-solver on hand.
You know how to read tickets as they come flying off the machine, and you can delegate responsibility. You know that a steak takes longer to cook than fried shrimp, so you are going to make sure that one doesn’t come up in the window before the other.
The expediter is often the Kitchen Manager or Executive Chef, but many restaurants have designated Expediters that serve as a linchpin between the front and back of the house. It’s a high energy job and a lot of fun if you can manage it.
Even in the world’s finest restaurants, if the silverware isn’t clean it doesn’t matter how good the food is. Dishwashers are an important element of the kitchen, and let’s face it: you have to start somewhere in this business.
If you take a humble approach to your job and like methodical work, dishwashing opportunities are always available.
Photo Credit: Janelle Santos
You have a winning smile and excel in customer relations. Basically, you are a people person, and let’s be honest: this business is all about people. You know how to balance reservations made by phone with the walk-ins. You know the floor plan, you keep your books in order and you do it all with that award-winning friendly disposition we talked about.
Knowing how to navigate POS software is essential for anyone wishing to work in the service industry today. Cashiers will be experts of the touch-screen display. They are warm and friendly, patient and kind. Oh, and they know how to make change.
You are also great with people. You know how to talk to them, and you know how to listen. You can “read” a table and know whether they will respond well to chitchat or whether they just want you to take their order and blend with the wallpaper.
Oh, it also helps if you can handle large tables while not forgetting about that couple that got tucked away at that two-top way down at the end of the bar.
You work well with waiters, you’ve got their back, and when their customers’ glasses are empty, you appear with water as if by magic. Good bussers are discrete, fast, and efficient when it comes to clearing a table, and they might even have a joke or two for the dishwashers when they get back to the kitchen.
15. General Manager
Besides overseeing all other managerial operations, the GM often handles ordering beverages, food, and kitchen supplies as well menu design, the floor plan, and scheduling. Delegating responsibility and hiring the right staff is key. Think of it like casting a play.
A good GM knows how to pick the right combination of personalities and build a team of players that will put on a winning performance night after night and keep their audience coming back for more.
The assistant manager handles many of the above responsibilities, but they are often more hands-on when it comes to the immediate needs of customers and employees. They are well-organized team leaders who can think on their feet and stay organized. As with all front-of-house jobs, charm and charisma go a long way.
17. Shift Manager
Usually reporting to the assistant manager, the shift manager understands the importance of leaving a station just as they found it, and it’s their job to make sure employees do exactly that. They keep track of supplies, handle cash, and interact with customers all while overseeing a range of employees.
18. Food Runner
Sometimes bussers double as runners and sometimes waiters and waitresses run their own food. Either way, you work well with others, know the floorplan of the restaurant like the back of your hand, and can carry at least two plates on one arm.
You can handle that large tray of food with one hand while unfolding a tray-stand with the other. You also know how to make sure everybody at that table of ten gets what they ordered.
Whether you prefer “mixologist” or just good old-fashioned “beer jockey,” you know how to take care of people when it counts. You also probably know that both light and dark rum go into a Mai Tai, as well as the difference between an aperitif and a digestif.
Have you seen the 1988 movie Cocktail more times than you probably should have? Then you probably also know Coughlin’s law: Beer is for breakfast. Drink or be gone.
Not only do you know how to slice limes, but you also know to change a keg coupler and you have the strength to do it quickly. Like the perfect wingman-or-woman, you make sure the bartender has eyes in the back of their head.
While most barbacks are not licensed to serve alcohol, they can handle non-alcoholic drink requests and free up space at the bar to make way for the big spenders.
Dirty chai latte ring a bell? Does the sound of frothing milk get you going in the morning? A lot of love goes into a cup of coffee these days. Swirling that milk on top of a cappuccino has become a veritable art form in itself.
Coffee lovers can be as discerning as wine tasters when it comes to their cup of joe. You know how to keep customers happy as well as maintain equipment. You know the menu, speak the lingo, and keep the morning brew from turning to mud.
22. Sandwich Maker
The unsung heroes of the food and beverage world are arguably the cooks who prefer to work their magic during the lunch rush. After all, a lot more goes into sandwiches than smoked meat and cheese.
Good sandwich makers know it all starts with the bread, but a lot depends on what you fill it with and how you dress it up. Your mantra: presentation is everything.
Opening the bottle is only half the battle. When you drink a glass of wine, can you detect such subtleties of flavor as shoe leather and chutney? Old money and sad raisins?
The wine connoisseur knows their regions, grape varieties, climates, and soils. They are usually well traveled and basically love to nerd-out on all things vino. Cheers!