Four Types of Restaurants and the Job Opportunities They Offer

World-renowned chefs Anthony Bourdain, Mario Batali, and Thomas Keller all started their careers as dishwashers. Starting at the bottom and working your way to the top is common within restaurants. But how do you decide where to start?

The restaurant industry is full of job opportunities that match a wide range of skills and interests, and it’s great for people with little or no job experience. We’ve put together an overview of the four main types of restaurants and the positions often found in those restaurants to help you decide where to get started. 

Fast Food

This type of restaurant needs no introduction; they’re everywhere. In my hometown, there are two McDonald’s restaurants so close to each other, you can literally throw a rock from one and hit the other. 

What makes it different

Fast-food restaurants focus on high volume sales and quick service (typically under 5 minutes). Turnaround this fast means the food has to be ready to go at all times, so fast-food places rely on processed and packaged ingredients. 

Positions

There’s no table service in a fast-food restaurant, so instead of a server and host, there is a cashier and a front counter employee. In the kitchen, there is a fry cook and a grill cook, and like any restaurant, there is a manager.

Fast Casual

Fast casual is a hybrid of fast food and casual dining. A few examples of popular restaurants in this category are Chipotle Mexican Grill, Panera Bread, Smashburger, and Qdoba.

What makes it different

This type of restaurant has more of a “sit down” atmosphere than a fast food place, but still offers quick counter service. Fast casual menus are considered a step up from fast food. While not necessarily healthier, the food is more likely to be made from “real” ingredients instead of packaged, processed ingredients.

Positions

Fast casual offers the same job opportunities as fast food.

Casual Dining

This category is represented by restaurants like Olive Garden, Outback Steakhouse, TGI Fridays, and Mellow Mushroom.

What makes it different

Instead of counter service, casual dining restaurants have hosts who bring you to your table and servers who take your order, bring out your food, and ensure you have everything you need. Fast casual food is often made from scratch from fresh ingredients, but the menu rarely changes and the dishes are created for mass appeal. 

Positions

The positions at casual dining restaurants include hosts, servers, bussers, bartenders, line cooks, dishwashers, kitchen managers, front-of-house (FOH) managers, and a general manager.

Fine Dining

The fine dining category is home to high-end restaurants like Wolfgang Puck’s Spago, Tom Colicchio’s Craft, and David Chang’s Momofuku Ko.

Chef preparing food

What makes it different

Fine dining dishes are more creative than the typical “cookie cutter” basics you can get at other restaurants, and executive chefs regularly change the menu with the seasons.

The level of service provided at fine dining establishments is also top-notch. Guests can expect impeccable service (knowledgeable staff, special request accommodations, etc.) and a much higher price point. Skillfully prepared, creative meals + professional service = $$$.

Positions

Besides the typical server and host (sometimes called the maitre’d) positions in FOH, fine dining establishments might also have a wine expert called a sommelier. The BOH positions are more nuanced at these restaurants than they are in casual, fast casual, or fast food. The kitchen hierarchy includes an executive chef, a sous chef, chefs de partie, commis chefs, and dishwashers/kitchen porters.

Deciding where to start your career in the restaurant industry is a big decision. Consider your skills, experience, and career goals to help you decide which type of restaurant and position would be best for you. Remember, even famous chefs started at the bottom and worked their way up, so choose an entry-level position that will give you the experience you need to move up to the job you want.

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