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Public sector catering: area of work

In a graduate career in public service catering, you could provide a service to doctors, patients, pilots or policemen.

Most organisations in the public sector need hospitality service and food and beverage services in particular are the most common areas of work. Some services are carried out in-house while others are contracted out to external service providers. As a catering manager, your tasks will include planning menus, budgeting and supervising staff. Knowledge of health and safety law is important for looking after your staff and the people you are providing a service for. Some public sector organisations also hire people for events and exhibitions.

This article was last updated before the beginning of the pandemic. Depending on the specific public sector employer, you may find it difficult to gain work or experience at this time – and this article emphasises that this won't make you an unfavourable candidate in future, as recruiters know times are unprecedented. However, other employers, such as the health and emergency services, might be recruiting. If you'd like some guidance for your search for work, take a look at our advice for job hunting during the pandemic.

Working environment

You may be employed by the armed forces, an educational institution, the health and emergency services, the police service, a prison or a local authority. You could be in charge of feeding a hospital full of patients and staff, or preparing meals and arranging supplies in a war zone. Some long hours, evening, weekend and public holiday work may be required.

Getting in and getting on

While employers will take graduates of any degree discipline, a relevant qualification in a subject such as business management, food science, nutrition, dietetics or catering management may be preferred. A postgraduate qualification can give you an advantage, particularly if you do not have a hospitality-related first degree. Relevant catering and managerial work experience is normally necessary. Commercial awareness is important in this area of work, in particular the ability to work to tight budgets. Good interpersonal skills and flexibility are advantageous and applicants should also be capable of working well within a team.

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In Partnership

This content has been written or sourced by AGCAS, the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services, and edited by TARGETjobs as part of a content partnership. AGCAS provides impartial information and guidance resources for higher education student career development and graduate employment professionals.