What exactly is a food consultant? What do they specialize in and how can they help your restaurant business? Whether you are a food-related business looking to hire a food consultant or an individual looking to become one, here is everything you need to know about food consulting and how they can improve the operations of any food service facility.
What is Food Consulting?
Food consultants are experts in gastronomy, food safety and food quality who advise food industry businesses and professionals on the development and improvement of their food service operations. A food consultant can work with restaurants, food producers, schools or any other food service facility.
There are a plethora of jobs related to food consulting and the career path of a consultant is based on their speciality. Jobs available to food consultants are:
- Food and facility inspectors
- Food service quality consultant
- Food safety auditor
- Menu engineer and designer
- Menu developer
- Environmental safety regulator
- Food engineer
Food consultants that work in restaurants usually work with menu engineering, design, and food costing. Food consultants are often hired when a restaurant is trying to cater to specific diners, offer healthier options, gain some creative input, and/or ensure food safety and quality. Food consultants will specialize in different types of cuisine or eating styles. For example, a restaurant looking to offer more vegan options will seek out a food consultant that specializes in creating plant-based dishes. Food consultants can also be hired by chain restaurants to create quality assurance, operational systems and food handling and safety systems across all locations.
Food consultants often have a background in culinary arts and/or nutrition, providing industry professionals the tools to:
- Create and maintain food safety procedures.
- Assist with culinary development and menu design.
- Assist with revenue generation, food costs and menu engineering.
- Develop food production facilities and kitchens up to code.
- Create products and dishes that are nutritionally viable and tasty.
- Provide consultation for specific types of food production, such as gluten free baked goods.
What Qualifications Do You Need to Be a Food Consultant?
- A degree in food management, hospitality, nutrition and/or culinary arts
- Food Handlers License
- Knowledge of health, fire safety and disabled person act requirements
- Leadership, managerial, organizational, and problem solving skills
- Food Service Consultants Society International (FCSI) membership to provide:
- Networks to many professionals in the foodservice industry
- Professional recognition
- Events, workshops and tools to help you stay up to date with advancements in the industry
- If you are working as a food safety consultant, you should have an full understanding of HACCP certification and the type of certification the establishment you are working with is trying to receive.
Building Your Food Consulting Business
If you plan on becoming a food consultant, you can build your business through a process that will provide you the experience, qualifications and know-how to succeed in the industry. Your educational background and work experience will make you qualified to become a thought leader in your field and will open up a variety of opportunities. Here are the steps to becoming a food consultant and tips on building your resume:
- Get a bachelor’s degree: Depending on the type of food consultant you want to be, you will need a bachelor’s degree in that food-related field. Your best bet is to get your degree in food science, management and/or nutrition. The more diverse and solid your educational background in food is, the more opportunities you will have available to you.
- Get experience in the food industry: Whether you have experience working at a hospital cafeteria or a restaurant kitchen, first hand experience will get you accustomed to the process of health inspections, management issues, facility development and management, menu design and more.
- Get a job at a prestigious food consulting firm: There are thousands of food consulting firms across the world and many of them specialize in different fields. Find the firms that are working in the speciality you are interested and apply to work there. The right firm will provide you the experience you need, connect you with the right network and give you insights on how to become a professional in your field.
- Become a member of Food Consultants Group: The FCG is the largest and most diverse directory of food consultants in the U.S. Become a member of the FCG so that you can increase your exposure and reach to potential customers.
How Much Money Does a Food Consultant Make?
Some food consultants will work as salaried employees in food production companies, consulting on product development and consumer satisfaction. According to LinkedIn, food consultants make an average of $64,500 per year. Based on the demographics on their platform, the top ten companies employing food consultants are:
- World Food Programme
- Marriott International
If you are working as a freelance food consultant, you can determine your hourly, daily or weekly rate based on what salary you’d like to make. For example, if you’d like to make $60,000 per year, you will divide that number by the number of working weeks and then by the number of hours in a working week. You can take the figure you get and mark it up to add revenue for costs such as insurance, transportation, and taxes.
The costs of services will vary based on your expertise, the level of difficulty of a particular project and what the company or institution you are working for can afford. As a freelance food consultant, you’ll have to determine your rate for each individual project.
You’re a Food Consultant. Now What?
Once you’ve set out an academic and career path to become a consultant, there are some things you can do to continue to grow your business, brand, exposure and expertise:
- Become a professional member of the Food Consultants Society International. To become a professional member, you must:
- Be employed three years as a project manager in a food industry consulting firm
- Been established as a senior associate member of the FCSI
- Pass two exams administered by the FCSI
- Subscribe to FCSI code of ethics
- Present three reference checks
- Before you become a professional member of the FCSI, you can become a senior associate member which gives you access to professional journals and publications, attend seminars, and network with other food service professionals.
- Get published: If you are an expertise in a particular food related field, such as food safety, you can heighten your status by becoming published in a food journals such as The International Journal of Food Science and Technology and the Journal of Food Nutrition and Food Sciences.
- Create your own website that illustrates your restaurant mission, values, qualifications and work experience.
- Consistently attend workshops and seminars related to food science, nutrition, and safety.