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How to Get into the Restaurant Business

Learn how to get into the restaurant business from restaurateur Paul Bolles-Beaven in this Howcast video.


I imagine that some of you are wondering how to get into the restaurant business. Really, the best way is to start at the beginning, at an entry-level position.

You can go to school, and that can be very helpful. You can learn many things. They will undoubtedly accelerate your path, but the best thing to do is to get experience, to get it, and start working there.

Restaurants are a wonderful industry, because they often will hire people with very limited experience or no experience. They have them start as an entry level person and grow them.

I, for example, started in the restaurant business 26 and a half years ago, with no experience as a waiter, at Union Square Cafe. More than half my life later, I'm one of the owners of the company.

This is what's great about the restaurant business. It's also what's hard. Don't expect to do a career change, having never worked in a restaurant, getting a restaurant management degree, and start at the top. You still have to get some practical, hands on, real experience of what it's like to work in the business.

One of the first things you need to decide, do you think you want to be someone who works in the dining room in a restaurant or do you want to be someone who works in the kitchen of a restaurant? They are very different kinds of tasks, very different kinds of experience and role. It's the first thing you should decide.

If you'd like to be in the front of a restaurant, in the dining room part of the restaurant, or at the front door, you should start to pursue jobs that are entry-level positions in a restaurant. Most typically they would be a busboy, a position like a host, or someone who answers the phone and takes reservations.

You might be able to start as a server, depending on how demanding the restaurant is, in terms of the skills and experience they require. When you start there, you can follow a path, as you prove yourself, learn more and more about the business and about the product.

You can follow a path, and become a captain or become a [sp] maitre d' at the front door. You can ultimately work your way into management, if that's something that you feel you really want to do.

In the kitchen, you can start as a prep cook. You can start as someone who is cutting carrots all day long, the famous image. Then, you can work your way to the point where you're preparing cold dishes or what's called [sp] garmage.

Work your way from there into a hot line cooking position. After being cook, proving yourself there, developing some management skill, perhaps you can become a sous chef, and one day a chef.

These are all paths that you can follow, but there are many different paths. I've seen them all. People hop around from front of house to back of house, to this position and to that position. That flexibility is one of the great things about working in the restaurant industry.

Another way that you need to be conscious of getting into the restaurant business is yourself. It requires that you be a little bit humble, willing to work hard, and willing to learn constantly. It's a complicated, dynamic business.

The products that we work with have limitless detail that you can learn. You need to be a person who's willing to learn, willing to be a little humble, and willing to work hard.

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