There are three main dimensions to an internship in the food industry, as found in a study published in the Journal of Teaching in Travel & Tourism. These dimensions include the benefits of the internship, challenges, and career perceptions. An internship delves into all the aspects of work in this industry, which was certainly on an upward curve prior to the current health crisis. If you are thinking of applying for an internship in this sector, what vital skills can you learn and what are the potential challenges you might encounter?
Insights into the Hospitality Industry
Completing an internship enables you to comprehend the full gamut of skills required by the catering industry. These may vary greatly from the qualities that first attracted you to catering. For instance, you may have a passion and talent for food preparation and presentation, but if you have an eye for design, then you may realise that catering provides a much wider gamut of outlets for this talent than you initially imagined. Catering calls for a series of skills which include customer service, B2B negotiations, project management, time management, hiring staff, and more. During your internship, you can define the roles you enjoy the most, making it a point to specialise in the areas you will require to fulfil these tasks on a professional basis.
The Ins and Out of Restaurant Design
One of the biggest deal breakers in the restaurant industry is design; the way food tables and chairs are set, the distance between tables, the use of lighting, and more. Tables, cutlery, dishes, and other key features of a meal should be perfectly in line with the spirit of the event. For instance, in an event promoting sustainability, clients may request the use of natural materials, natural wood for furniture and décor details, biodegradable straws, organic plates, and more. The ability to adapt design elements to clients’ needs is one of the key qualities you can hone while working alongside seasoned designers specialising in catered events.
Learning the Challenges of the Kitchen Environment
It takes many skills to manage a kitchen well and this is especially true in the catering industry, where staff may encounter different sized kitchens, different types and quality of equipment, and varying teams — each with their own goals, roles, and procedures. Indeed, the kitchen is one of the most challenging of all environments in this industry and it requires many abilities to thrive — including quick thinking, management of resources, adaptability, and teamwork. If you are attracted to the food preparation side of catering then this is the perfect place to spend most of your internship. If possible, work alongside the Executive Chef to hone your knowledge in budgeting, liaising with suppliers, and discussing financial aspects with management and/or clients.
Vocational Contribution and Personal Development
Not all skills you will take from an internship are professional; you will also grow from a personal perspective, hopefully building relationships and networks that will stand you in good stead throughout your professional life. For some people doing internships during challenging times (for instance, during the current health crisis), internships in catering can be undertaken with an altruistic motive - for instance, to help feed vulnerable groups or to organise fundraising gala dinners.
As is the case with most other industries, an internship in catering is a great way to learn ‘on the spot’. Key skills you can hone include teamwork, budgeting, design, and adapting to need as they arise. Internships also provide a valuable means through which to grow personally and to do your share for your community in times of need.