Hospitality, leisure and travel

Food service management: area of work

Plan and provide professional food services for a variety of organisations.

Organisations such as hospitals, schools, entertainment venues or big companies often need professional food services provided by contract caterers. In a food service management role, you could be involved in liaising with new and existing clients; overseeing the work of colleagues; recruiting and training staff; ensuring compliance with health and safety legislation; and managing budgets. Food service managers need to plan, organise, administer and manage food services at a previously agreed cost. Healthy eating is an increasingly high priority these days, so food service managers need to balance cost with nutritional value.

Working environment

Companies in food service management often specialise in serving certain client groups and have long-standing traditions. You could be working for a group of companies, in a school or at a hospital, or at a conference centre that caters for events such as weddings. Since the job may require moving between venues, it is important to check the food preparation facilities and look carefully at the amenities available for your staff.

Food service managers tend to work 9 am to 5 pm, although contracts in education could involve shorter hours and contracts in events might include evening or weekend work.

Getting in and getting on

Commercial awareness is key to being able to bid successfully for catering contracts. You’ll also need to have good organisational skills and problem-solving ability in order to effectively manage staff, contracts and schedules. You will often have to work to tight deadlines so you should demonstrate the ability to work under pressure. A relevant qualification in business management, nutrition, food science, dietetics or hotel/catering management can help you to get ahead, as can relevant work experience.

Employers range from very large companies to small independent organisations. Roles within the area include chefs, kitchen assistants and waiting staff as well as general managers. There are good opportunities for progression between these roles, with the ultimate possibility of becoming regional manager or being self-employed and running a catering business.