Society for Foodservice Management
Which onsite segment does SFM represent?
Historically, the Society for Foodservice Management represented those operating in business and industry—B&I—as well as the contract management companies that provide most of the foodservice in that segment. But in recent years, SFM has broadened its membership and today it also includes members from healthcare, education and other sectors.
Why do you think someone looking for a career in foodservice consider the onsite segments?
For one thing, it is very challenging, and demands a high level of professionalism. For example, in business dining you may be catering dozens of small meetings in the morning, over-seeing several busy cafés at lunchtime and all the while have your staff preparing to cater a black-tie, seven course meal for a thousand people that evening.
In terms of career growth, this industry is filled with success stories in which people have been able to demonstrate their ability and consistently advance from entry levels to some of the top jobs based on their ability. It is an industry that allows you to control your own destiny.
Another benefit of working in this field derives from the fact that you are serving many of the same customers every single day. For example, in business dining you may come to have a first name relationship with most of the significant managers and executives in the company where you operate. You also become part of the family and culture there—people know who you are and you are more than just a number. There is a great benefit to working in this way—you are not just a cook or a manager in a restaurant.
What are some of the typical jobs in the field?
The breadth of positions can be truly amazing to those who are not familiar with how onsite organizations work. They range from the typical entry level jobs in any foodservice—cooks, servers, cashiers, attendants— to executive positions in which you may be responsible for over-seeing services internationally, at corporate and manufacturing locations around the world.
In the last decade there has been increasing demand for talented culinary professionals of all sorts--chefs, pastry professionals, catering managers, and so on. And there is great demand for unit managers who can combine a grounding in the culinary arts with the financial and people skills to run smaller operations.
Many of these positions are with contract management companies and they are so diversified that they often offer career ladders that can span segments, regions of the country and responsibiliity levels in a way that is hard to match in any other industry.
What are compensation levels like?
As a general rule, the positions in onsite food-service have compensation levels that are competitive with any in the foodservice field, often with better benefits. And because the career ladder is so much more open-ended, the upside potential is actual much greater for those who have the smarts and drive to pursue their careers in this field.
What would a culinary graduate or chef like about working in onsite?
There is a constant demand for variety at every onsite venue, since you have to always offer something new the customers. Menus change on a daily and weekly basis and are very challenging. So is the need to keep those menus trendy and competitive, which is very important to ensuring that your customer base stays onsite. I will tell you one thing—onsite chefs will never become bored in this business.
What would someone interested in a management career find rewarding about this field?
The sense of accomplishment you get from successfully executing every day is very rewarding. The relationship-building opportunities I mentioned before give you a sense of personal satisfaction that is hard to match. If you are good at what you do, you will come to be seen as a key player in the culture of the organization you serve.
Even people who work in the "back of the house" form these relationships because in most business dining environments the kitchens are open today. Those who work in them are almost always out front with the customers. If you like people, you will like working in onsite.
How does SFM support career growth in the field?
SFM awards a series of annual scholarships for aspiring students who want to enter the field. It also has initiatives that seek to improve the ability of hospitality management schools to educate students about onsite careers.. Finally, our members include many companies that sponsor their own recruitment and career development programs.
How can I find out more?
You can visit SFM's website for more information. That's also where you can find out about the various regional networking events SFM hosts throughout the year.
Anyone seriously considering a career in this field can contact SFM about attending one of these. Our members are very welcoming and always looking to bring new talent into the onsite world.