Transferring Your Restaurant Skills Outside of the Industry

Restaurant people are a special breed.  We are cut from a different cloth.  Serving others is in our blood.  However, there may come a time that our circumstances change, and we are forced to make a move in our career to something outside of our industry.  Perhaps you have a new family, are returning to school, need more stable hours or just feel burnt out, there might come a time when you need to find a new path.

The good news is that working in a restaurant has provided each of us a wealth of experience.  When looking for a new career path, focus on the transferable skills that you have learned.  A restaurant veteran typically has these highly sought-after skills:


  • Works well under pressure
  • Conflict resolution
  • Is a team player
  • Able to multitask
  • Strong customer service
  • Great ability to communicate with others
  • Handling money and finances

When searching for new opportunities, look for jobs that you can use these skills to your advantage.  Below are a few opportunities where your restaurant experience will be valued.

Distributor.  Think about all of the distributors you deal with on a daily basis.  Food, beer, wine, paper and sanitation, linens, etc.  Many distributors prefer employees with restaurant experience because you understand the industry and speak the language.  So, whether you prefer to be a sales representative, coordinator, warehouse help, driver, etc., check with your distributor contacts about the companies they represent to see if it may be right for you.

Event planner.  Many restaurants and corporations employ event planners to coordinate conferences, weddings, charity events, trade shows, business meetings, sales events, and more.  If you have experience coordinating large events within a fixed budget in your restaurant then you may find job listings that are in need of your services.

Sales representative.  The most successful sales reps are those who have great communication skills.  They are good listeners who can understand the customers issues even when they may have a hard time articulating their needs.  Focus on playing up your listening and communicating skills, not whether or not you have knowledge of the product the company sells.  The latter can be taught, but a consultant styles sales representative is a much-desired trait for employers.

Inbound Call Centers.  Whether it be for internet, phone, appliances, etc., call centers can be an ideal fit with your experience in problem solving and conflict resolution.  Often when customers call into a call center they are already upset due to an issue or frustrated by being placed on hold for long periods of time.  Knowing how to defuse the situation while quickly and calmly solving the customer’s issue will make you an ideal candidate for a call center position.

Flight attendant.  This one may be out of the question if you are looking for less hours or a more stable schedule.  However, if you don’t mind the hours, you can earn you a job that allows you to travel and see the world.  A flight attendant’s duties involve more than serving customers, they must keep passengers safe and ensure they are following security regulations – especially during an emergency – so your people skills and ability to thrive under pressure are a real asset.

Facilities management.  Depending on your position at the restaurant, you might have gained some facilities management experience.  It is common for managers and supervisors to clean, maintain and coordinate services for the building and major appliances.  Proper care of these high dollar items requires careful planning and coordination; don’t underestimate this skill set on your resume.

Bookkeeper.  Restaurant managers and supervisors are also often called upon to conduct basic bookkeeping tasks.  These responsibilities can include accounts payable, accounts receivable, filing invoices, petty cash, payroll, developing budgets, forecasting, financial planning, and more.  If the bookkeeping functions are something that you enjoy, look into jobs that you can concentrate on just those functions.

Software and technology companies.  Don’t overlook software and technologies that you have learned over your years in the restaurant industry.  Many of these companies will value your “real life” knowledge of their products.  Understanding the end user needs, expectations, and frustrations put you in the best position to help them.  At Compeat and Ctuit, we pride ourselves on hiring industry veterans for just that reason. Check out our employment opportunities!