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The Crossroads of F&B Careers

For some, F&B is an easy way to make money

, for some, it is a stepping stone on the way to something else, and for others, just a means to an end. But a select few of us have made F&B our careers and have spent years, if not decades, growing and building our craft. It is those of us who have made a career in F&B that eventually realize that, unlike most professions, there is an expiration date on this one.  Whether you are back or front of the house, it is inevitable that your body, mind, or patience will eventually not be able to handle the demands of this high-paced job. But the big question is; where do we go next?

 

If you have worked in any restaurant for any time, you know that the people who excel in this profession are typically very hardworking, reliable, smart, and willing to work long, hard hours. This resilience and versatility make F&B professionals ideal candidates for transitioning their skills to new industries, beyond the familiar confines of kitchens and dining areas. But for some reason, it is tough for a person in their thirties, forties, or above to take years of restaurant experience and parlay them into something else. Yet, we have all seen someone do it; and do it well- but what do they go do? I bet you can name the top two parallel professions they go to… real estate or alcohol reps- and for those that do those things well, it is a difficult but rewarding transition. But not everyone wanting to retire from F&B can be a real estate agent or a wine rep, it’s just not possible. 

So what is left for the rest of us?

I have been lucky enough to work for the same company for eleven years. Myself and the other senior staff members I work with have been able to make real lives for ourselves. We have gross incomes in the $100k-200k ranges, health insurance, 401k match, and mostly only work about 30-35 hours a week. We own homes, cars, boats, and pets, have children, and spouses, take vacations and travel, and still have money left over for savings or investments. I know that we are very lucky in our F&B success, but I also know we are not alone. Those of us at the top of this profession have thrived and made comfortable lives for ourselves. So when we are ready to move on from this life to the next, what are we to do? Take a $140k pay cut? Go back to school and fall into (possibly more) student loan debt? Apply for jobs that we have no experience in and ask for a $150k/year salary.

As a person in my late thirties, I find myself wondering this more and more… 

where will I go next? What will my exit strategy be? 

 

I am smart, hardworking, well-educated, and great at what I do, but does that qualify me for any other job that will match my current wages? I feel like I have landed myself in a true dilly of pickle. I don’t want to start from the bottom at my age, and I don’t want to cut my earnings by more than 50% with the hope that I can eventually find my way back to my current income bracket.

 

I truly wish this was an article with advice on how to transfer success from one profession to another, but I am at just as much, if not more of a loss than others. The only great idea I have come up with so far is to start a program similar to those they have for ex-convicts to help them re-enter society. A program to rehabilitate former F&B’rs  to help them learn to work daytime hours, not curse, not sexually harass coworkers, or make inappropriate jokes, and then place them into high-paying, dignified professions. So please be on the lookout for venture capitalists or well-meaning philanthropists that might be interested. Perhaps we can take a lesson from the kitchen and be like old bread made into breadcrumbs or croutons. A little older and a little harder, but still an important and loved ingredient in society.