Advancing your career in hospitality: guide to career paths

The hospitality industry in this country is a thriving sector, offering a wealth of opportunities across all sorts of roles, at all...

Nicholas Kira

13 October 2023

17 min read

The hospitality industry in this country is a thriving sector, offering a wealth of opportunities across all sorts of roles, at all levels of seniority. Whether you’re a budding hospitality professional or a true pro with years of experience under your belt, this blog post will tell you all about the various career opportunities in the hospitality industry, providing you with insights into the diverse range of paths available to you.

From front-of-house roles that involve guest interactions, to behind-the-scenes positions that ensure the smooth running of establishments and events, to management positions, the UK hospitality sector offers plenty by way of career growth and fulfillment.

We’re now going to look a little closer at the industry, so get ready to dig into the different sectors within hospitality, the vast array of roles available, the skills you need (at all levels), and the qualifications and certifications that’ll help you along the way.  

Understanding the hospitality industry: the various different sectors

Low Angle View Of Happy Restaurant Staff Standing Against White Background

The hospitality industry is broad and diverse, covering a wider range of roles at all levels of seniority – each with the aim of creating memorable and satisfying experiences for guests.

First up, there’s the accommodation sector, which includes hotels, resorts, and other lodging establishments. This sector provides guests with comfortable and safe places to stay – an essential part of the hospitality industry.

Then there’s the food and beverage sector, consisting of restaurants, cafes, bars, and catering services, offering dining experiences catering to various culinary preferences – with the aim of engaging and delighting patrons and making them want to return to the same venue.

Event planning and management is another integral sector to consider, responsible for orchestrating memorable occasions; from weddings, to charity events, to music festivals, to large corporate conferences. This is all about making guests feel valued and that they’re part of something special.

This is not to forget the ‘engine room’ of the hospitality industry – back-of-house roles such as kitchen porters, chefs, culinary arts, baking and pastry specialists, among others. They keep the show running and make sure guests are fed and entertained in the manner they expect to be. If you’re going to work in any of the above roles, you’ll need to look the part, which is why we’ve put together this comprehensive post on what to wear to crack the hospitality sector.

Finally, sales, marketing, finance, and human resources play vital supporting roles, backing up all of the other roles and contributing to the industry’s success. These sectors collectively form the backbone of the hospitality industry, working closely together to deliver exceptional guest experiences and create a thriving hospitality industry overall.  

Career paths in the hospitality industry

Cheerful waiter behind counter using digital tablet

When considering career opportunities in the hospitality industry, it’s important to look at all of the options available and which of them best suits you and your lifestyle.  

Front-of-House careers

From waiter to maitre d’ When it comes to carving out a career path in hospitality, you can start off as waiting staff and, in a reasonable period of time, graduate to the position of Maitre d’ – the head waiter of a restaurant or hotel.

But… this is not a simple process. It involves dedication to your role, a proactive approach to advancing from that role, and the development of skills associated with the position of Maitre’ d’. It may sound obvious, but the quickest way to the top is to start off at the beginning.

Excel in your role as a waiter, demonstrating exceptional customer service and a deep understanding of restaurant operations, and you’ll very quickly move up the career ladder. Start taking on additional responsibilities as time goes on, such as assisting with reservations, coordinating seating arrangements, and managing guest enquiries. And network, network, network – seek out experienced Maitre d’s and ask for their mentorship and guidance.

Alternatively, or in addition to this, you might want to consider enrolling in hospitality management courses or programmes, to enhance your knowledge of restaurant management and customer service. Ultimately, whichever career path you take, you’ll need to demonstrate your leadership skills, ability to handle challenging situations, and a strong commitment to guest satisfaction to secure a Maitre d’ position, and be responsible for overseeing front-of-house operations.  

From bell boy/girl to hotel management It may be that you start off as a hotel receptionist, or a bell boy/girl, carrying guests’ luggage to their rooms, or another hotel job, but you can quickly advance, with the right skills and attitude, and be part of hotel management.

Hotel management is right at the forefront of the hospitality industry, where professionals oversee the daily operations of hotels, ensuring guests have a memorable stay, and recommend the same place to their friends and family.

These roles demand strong leadership skills, adaptability, and a real passion for delivering top-notch hospitality – a real care for guest satisfaction. Depending on how far up the ladder you want to go, roles available to you include General Manager, Director of Operations, or Regional Manager, as you gain the necessary experience. These positions involve strategic decision-making, as well as shaping the overall guest experience, so this must be something you’re interested in to take them on.  

From serving meals to the real deal You might start off at an individual restaurant, or a chain of them, as a waiter or greeter, but work your way up to restaurant management.

Restaurant management offers an exciting career path within the hospitality industry, with individuals being responsible for the efficient operation of dining establishments, including staff management, budgeting, menu development, and maintaining excellent customer service.

You can acquire the essential knowledge you need from seasoned restaurant managers or mentors along the way, including insights into restaurant operations, finance, and customer service. You can then use this knowledge to showcase what you’ve learnt, including leadership skills, staff management, scheduling, and problem solving. You’ll also need to show excellent communication and organisational abilities, be prepared to work exceptionally hard, and have a laser-like focus on delivering perfect customer experiences.

As you gain more experience and insight, you can look at roles such as restaurant owner, district manager, or corporate restaurant manager. These positions may well involve specialising in different culinary styles or concepts.  

From running an event to running the whole show Event planning is a dynamic niche within the hospitality sector that focuses on creating memorable experiences for clients; from coordinating weddings, to corporate events, to galas, to big charity fundraisers, and more. This role requires exceptional organisational skills and creativity.

You would obviously start off at a junior level, assisting those more experienced than yourself, but would advance to more senior event planning positions or take on specialised opportunities as you spend more time in the industry. You could become a Senior Event Planner or delve into more niche roles, such as Wedding Planning or Corporate Event Management.  

Back-of-House careers

Chief of chefs There’s a distinct, set career path – an order of service, as such – if you want to work your way up the totem pole as a chef; from food prep assistant to commis chef, to chef de partie, to sous chef, to head chef, to lead chef. In fact, we talk about the various roles available as a chef in this blog post. The pursuit of culinary arts is a passion-driven career that involves creating mouth-watering dishes that delight diners, constantly coming up with new creations (or whole menus), and having a repertoire of cuisines you can cook; from Italian to Thai, from Greek to Indian. Overall, chefs are responsible for menu planning, ingredient sourcing, cooking techniques, budgeting, ordering, and ensuring every plate is a culinary masterpiece. As you progress in your culinary career, you’ll move into roles where you lead kitchen teams, design menus, and set the culinary direction of a restaurant (or restaurants). Some chefs also become restaurant owners or well renowned for their unique culinary styles.  

Baking and Pastry Arts This is, essentially, a spin-off of the information above, but puts you in a slightly more specialist category. If you have a passion for baking and pastry, then a career in this arena offers you the opportunity to create sweet and savoury delights. Pastry chefs and bakers are the artists behind delectable desserts and bread – from sourdough to tomato and olive, and beyond. You can quickly move up through the ranks, garnering more experience as you go, and advancing to roles such as Head Pastry Chef, where you’re in full control of the pastry department of a restaurant or bakery. You could even opt to open up your own bakery or specialise in niche areas like artisanal breadmaking or cake design.  

Behind the scenes Hotel operations professionals, sales managers, and marketing managers, work diligently behind the scenes to ensure the smooth functioning of hotels and resorts. They handle housekeeping, maintenance, facilities management, guest services, or the selling of a resort or a number of them to guests As you gain experience in hotel operations, you can progress to roles like Regional Manager or Chief Operating Officer (COO), where you oversee the entire operation of a hotel or a chain of hotels.

Or you could look to attract guests to venues, generating revenue through group bookings, corporate partnerships, and special promotions, as a Sales Manager.

You could also look at Marketing Manager roles, applying a creative mindset to promotional campaigns that attract guests to venues; using digital marketing, branding, advertising, and social media engagement.

Eventually, you could advance to senior positions, like Director of Marketing or Chief Marketing Officer  

Concierge A concierge is the linchpin when it comes to exceptional guest experiences in hotels and resorts. They aid guests in respect of various requests and arrangements, from booking reservations to providing recommendations for local attractions.

In time, and with experience, you can become a Head Concierge or Concierge Manager, where you oversee a team of concierges and manage different departments. Concierge roles require a deep commitment to guest satisfaction and exceeding expectations.   

Hospitality finance and administration We suppose it’s stating the obvious, but Finance Managers in hospitality handle the financial aspects of operations; from managing budgets, to financial reporting, to planning to ensure profitable operation. You may well start off as a Financial Controller, overseeing the financial department, then work your way up.

If you choose to, instead, work in Human Resources (HR), you’ll be in control of staffing and talent acquisition, employee relations, training of those employees, and their development within the hospitality sector. It’ll be your responsibility to ensure maximum guest satisfaction through the staff you’ve chosen to represent your organisation.

Rising through the ranks, you may find yourself taking on the roles of Director of Human Resources or Chief HR Office.  

Potential career paths in hospitality

Below are some quick examples as to how you progress from one role to the next, with the order of progression going from left to right.

Role Food Prep Assistant Commis Chef Chef De Partie Sous Chef Head Chef Lead Chef
Role Hotel Receptionist Concierge Shift Supervisor Shift Leader Hotel Manager Regional Manager
Role Marketing Assistant Marketing Executive Marketing Manager Senior Marketing Manager Marketing Director Head of Marketing

 

Essential skills for success in the hospitality sector

Side view of Waiter serving plates on a table at the restaurant

Succeeding in the hospitality sector demands a diverse set of skills and attributes, most of which are covered in our post on gaining the edge in the world of hospitality. At the forefront is exceptional communication, as hospitality professionals interact directly with guests and colleagues from diverse backgrounds. It’s essential that you know what each guest wants and needs and can convey this to fellow professionals.

Similarly, patience and empathy are essential when handling guest enquiries or resolving issues. It may be that a guest is vegetarian and has been given the wrong meal, or that they’re gluten free and need to be given an alternative.

In addition, attention to detail ensures that every aspect of a guest’s experience, from room cleanliness to food presentation, meets the high standards they expect.

And you’ll need strong problem-solving skills to help navigate unexpected challenges – you never know what a guest might ask or what situation might crop up.

Teamwork and leadership skills help to foster collaboration among staff members, contributing to a positive work environment, but they’ll also help you rise to the top – as a maitre d’ or in concierge, for example.

Finally, a genuine passion for delivering exceptional service and creating memorable guest experiences is an absolute must if you’re to be a success in the hospitality sector. You can gain the initial experience you need in the hospitality sector by working different roles across a number of venues through Indeed Flex, trying out what does and doesn’t work for you.  

Staying relevant: education and certification required by the hospitality sector

Being in the know The hospitality sector is a highly competitive industry that values skilled and knowledgeable professionals. To stay relevant in this field, you’ll need to pursue qualifications and certifications that enhance your expertise and open up new career opportunities to you. Here are some avenues you might wish to look to:

  • A Hospitality Management Degree: Many industry professionals begin their journey with a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management or a related field. These provide a solid foundation in areas like hotel and restaurant management, tourism, marketing, and finance.
  • Culinary Arts and Hospitality Programmes: Aspiring chefs and culinary professionals can benefit from culinary arts programmes offered by renowned culinary schools. These programmes provide hands-on training in cooking techniques, menu planning, and kitchen management.
  • Specialised Degrees: Depending on your career goals, you may consider specialised degrees such as a Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a focus on hospitality management or a Master of Science (MSc) in tourism and hospitality management.
  • Certifications: Several certifications can enhance your qualifications in the hospitality sector, such as; Certified Hospitality Supervisor (CHS), offered by the Institute of Hospitality, Sommelier Certification, for those interested in the wine industry, via the Court of Master Sommeliers, and Food Safety and Hygiene Certificates, such as the Level 2 Food Hygiene Certificate – which is something Indeed Flex offers free of charge.

One thing you may want to consider is language proficiency. The hospitality industry often caters to international guests, from all around the world, so fluency in multiple languages could really help boost your career. Whatever path you choose, continuously improving your skills and knowledge only serves to benefit your career and boost your overall success in the hospitality industry.  

Carving out a career in the hospitality industry: in summary

The hospitality industry offers a diverse array of career paths, each catering to various interests and skill sets. Whether you’re drawn to front-of-house roles, the creativity of culinary arts, the strategic thinking of management, sales, and marketing, or the precision of finance, HR, and administration, there’s definitely a  place for you in this thriving sector.

With dedication, continuous learning through a number of courses and qualifications, and a commitment to guest satisfaction, you can advance your career in hospitality and reach the top in an industry focused on delivering exceptional experiences.

So, take that first step, explore your options, and embark on a long-lasting journey towards a rewarding career in hospitality.


At Indeed Flex, we have close links with a number of employers right across the hospitality sector, spanning a breadth of different roles. Why not download the app today and check out what hospitality shifts are available in your area?  

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