If you’ve been around the foodservice industry long enough, you begin to notice trends everywhere you look — in products, in messaging and even within the structure of the professional community.
When you look around the room, one trend you notice is a serious lack of youth from entry-level to middle management and up, mainly due to the dwindling pool of candidates from which these positions are groomed. As if a recruiter’s job of getting people into the industry isn’t hard enough, recruiters are also tasked with finding experienced prospects to fill these elevated corporate roles who can also begin the succession plan.
So where does change begin?
From the perspective of someone with over two decades of experience in foodservice, change should start with our collective attitude toward the industry as a whole.
The first thought of foodservice for many is working behind the counter at a fast food restaurant. While many do get their start in this role, it can be so much more! This is an amazing industry filled with wonderful people. It’s an industry that allows you to travel to amazing places, eat and drink at some of the best restaurants in the world. There aren’t many industries that a young professional can step into and their entire world can suddenly revolve around food and drink — in a positive, fun way, of course. There’s a lot here that should get industry outsiders excited about joining it, but it appears we need to talk about it more.
Any way we can expose a younger audience to the industry is a step in the right direction. This exposing requires placing a focus on college and career fair engagement where we can plant the seed for interest in a foodservice career. We need to focus on getting students to tradeshows where they can witness firsthand the passion of the industry and see that there is a lot more a career in foodservice can offer beyond selling ovens and fryers.
For instance, automation is going to continue (especially if the lack of staffing is sustained). Food equipment manufacturers will need additional designers, engineers, sales people, marketers, etc. in order to make those products possible. It’s not that high school and college students aren’t interested in these positions; it’s that they aren’t aware. Making a concerted effort to migrate foodservice programs into more colleges and universities should become a priority of the industry if we are truly invested in bringing in young talent. Programs and courses focused on the industry would create great exposure and begin the education process. However, it is still our job to continue to educate them once they’ve entered the career, and more importantly, it’s up to us to retain them. If the industry wants to become a trendy place to grow a career, it must start from within.
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