National Association of College & University Foodservices
What are the most rewarding aspects of a career in college and university foodservice?
There's a long list of things that make this a great career. You are constantly exposed to the high energy levels of students as customers and employees; you are part of a team that works together to achieve an immediate, common goal and you get to celebrate achieving that goal even as you work through stressful situations together.
As a leader, you are the go-to person on campus for anything related to food.As a mentor, you have the satisfaction of developing employees who are promoted or hired by other operators. And if you do your job well you get the satisfaction of having students and parents tell you they would rather eat on campus than go elsewhere.
What are the biggest challenges you face?
A top one is maintaining quality in all aspects of the operation(s)—often a 24-hours-a-day, seven days-a-week job. It's critical to create a positive, productive team environment. On the financial side, you are always looking for ways to maintain a high level of services while tightly managing costs.
As a professional, you have to keep up with food trends, manage your time well, and ensure that the department has a sound strategic plan. You also have to constantly be ready to adapt to changes in the demands of customers, be ready to take on the challenges of remodeling facilities, manage your human resources, and constantly come up with new ideas.
What are some typical jobs available to those interested in this field?
You can choose from a variety of managerial positions in catering, concessions, c-stores, purchasing, and vending. There are also more specialized jobs in marketing, technology management, training, nutrition, and the culinary arts. Success in any of these fields can eventually lead to responsibility for managing an entire foodservice department as either a director or associate director, or even as a director of auxiliary services.
What are compensation and benefit levels like?
College foodservice directors can expect to earn about $75,000 a year on average, with larger and more complex departments commanding higher salaries. Mid-level management positions average between $50-60,000 and specialized jobs average between $40-45,000 per year.
Someone working in the dining department most likely receives the benefits of being a university employee—paid holidays, vacation, sick and maternity leave, retirement programs and savings plans. Universities often also partially or totally fund health and life insurance and offer tuition reimbursement for staff members and children of staff members.
What would a culinary graduate or chef like about working in this field?
It allows a great deal of creativity and innovation and a lot of freedom to try new recipes and concepts.There are continuous opportunities to help design new cooking platforms and dining room layouts.There is a high quality of life, with only few weekends and late nights required and major holidays off. And there is great diversity in our culinary venues—everything from c-store quickservice to casual dining to high-end catering.
What would someone interested in a management career find rewarding about this field?
It's high-energy, fast-paced and never boring. You get the opportunity to hone and utilize many skills for running a successful business—marketing, training, financial planning, goal-setting, human resources, consensus-building, design consulting. Being in a higher education community allows easy access to visual and fine arts, entertainment, recreational activities, sports, lectures and often cutting-edge research.
Finally, you get a real sense of accomplishment. You have the satisfaction of knowing you are a part of an organization that has a mission that is much more than just meeting quarterly P&L targets—you are making a difference in the lives of students.
What does NACUFS offer to students interested in college and university foodservices?
The NACUFS Foodservice Management Intern-ship Program, offered in cooperation with the Association of College and University Housing Officers-International, provides students with an 8-week paid work experience covering all facets of college dining operations. Internships are held at dozens of campuses throughout the U.S. each summer. For information on the internship program, visit www.nacufs.org and look under the section, "Awards, Contests and Internships."
The NACUFS-sponsored Clark E. DeHaven Scholarship Trust awards four, $4,000 scholar-ships each year to exceptional students contemplating a career in college and university foodservices.
NACUFS also provides a job posting service on its Web site. The Job Opportunity Bulletin lists hundreds of management positions at NACUFS member institutions and is updated regularly.