Aiming High in Foodservice
Even young people who are already considering a career in foodservice often lack information about industry opportunities. There is a popular misconception that a career in foodservice means waiting tables, or late shifts behind the bar. In order to continue to bring bright young people into the industry, it’s vital to educate them about the wealth of fulfilling and interesting career options in foodservice.
Meeting that challenge is the goal of Field to Fork, a project designed to teach students about career choices in the foodservice sector. At an event in Toronto in October, Field to Fork brought that message to 1,000 Toronto high school students and faculty during day-long events that included speakers, an overview of the industry, question and answer sessions and presentations on different aspects of foodservice. Students could also visit different career booths and explore the trade show.
The event covered all aspects of foodservice, from growing to marketing, and showcased the endless opportunities available in farming, manufacturing, distributing, operations and more. Held at the Toronto Congress Centre, Field to Fork was presented by the Toronto branch of the Canadian Association of Foodservice Professionals (CAFP), the Canadian Meat Council and the Greater Toronto Area School Boards.
Cathy Ralston, Assistant Professor at the University of Guelph’s School of Hotel & Food Administration, is faculty advisor for Guelph’s junior CAFP branch, which holds meetings about once a month and organizes foodservice-related tours for student members.
“They’re as varied as you want them to be,” Ralston says of career opportunities in foodservice. The students in the Guelph program tend to be aware of what’s available in the industry, she says.
“Our program is bachelor of commerce in either hotel administration or tourism management, so they know what they’re getting into,” she says. But a lot of young people still don’t see foodservice as a career.
“A lot people don’t see anything past entry-level jobs,” Ralston says. That, she says, is what the Field to Fork event was all about. “There’s more to foodservice than flipping burgers and slinging hash and busing tables.”
Information about the scope of foodservice careers needs to be brought to the broader public, but especially to young people who may already have an interest in the sector.
Dan Reeves, coordinator of industry training at Humber College School of Hospitality, Recreation & Tourism and faculty liaison for Humber’s junior CAFP branch, says many students in the hospitality program already have some industry experience, but may not be aware of broader career options.
“A lot of our students will work in a restaurant, say for a summer, and find out that they really enjoy it,” he says. “If they’ve already had service experience, or if they’ve already had bartending experience, we certainly hope that that’s not where they picture themselves for the rest of their careers. We want them to look a little bit higher than that.”
He also wants them to be aware of broader career options available beyond the classic restaurant setting, such as opportunities with suppliers, institutions, hospitals, dietary foodservice and other food-related businesses.
“The whole mandate of CAFP is one of education,” Reeves says. “Most of our students are drawn from first year classes, so they haven’t got to the point yet where they understand the full dimensions of the industry.”
On challenge is dealing with negative – and inaccurate – perceptions about careers in foodservice.
“A lot of people think working at a restaurant or working at McDonalds is a really demeaning experience. It can be a very, very enjoyable and rewarding career if you want to pursue it,” Reeves says. “I read a stat recently where one third of Americans will work at McDonalds at some point in their lives. McDonalds has one of the best training programs in the country. Sure there are the students, but there’s also managerial and administration and so on. And those jobs are on par with other sector jobs.”
Independent and entrepreneurial people can also thrive in foodservice.
“A lot of the operations are small, and this is an industry that opens up a lot of opportunities for setting up your own business,” Reeves said. “For those entrepreneurial and free spirits, it’s probably one of the easiest fields where they can set up a bed and breakfast or some type of catering company. I think there’s much more opportunity than in other areas to start something on your own.”