Looking to hire an intern for your food truck business? More and more small business owners are planning on it. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), employers plan on hiring 8.5 percent more college students in 2012 for internships than they did last year.

culinary interns

Internship programs are a smart recruitment strategy for a food truck business. It allows a mobile food vendor to nurture and feed your full-time hiring efforts. A separate study by NACE found that nearly 90 percent of students who took part in internships said they would accept an offer of a full-time job from their internship employer.

Here are a few tips to help guide you through the process of setting up an internship program for your mobile food business:

Review Your Needs

Remember, an intern will be looking for good experience, so be sure your needs match those of the interns. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • How can an intern help you with your business goals?
  • Do you have enough work to support an intern? Think about short-term and long-term assignments.
  • Who will supervise and mentor your intern?
  • What ramp-up and ongoing training can you provide?
  • Do you have available space in the truck or kitchen?
  • What about seasonal highs and lows?

It will take several weeks to recruit and hire an intern, so the further in advance you plan, the better.

The Recruitment Process

Hiring an intern requires similar steps to hiring a full-time employee. You’ll need to write a job description with real work assignments and defined objectives. Decide in advance how the intern will be supervised and mentored, and how the student will benefit financially and experientially from your program.

There are several options for searching for interns:

Online – Mobile food businesses can post internships directly with any internet job site such as Internships.com, AfterCollege.com, or LinkedIn.

School/College Career Services Offices – Many culinary schools and colleges operate internship programs through their career services offices (in exchange for student credits). Getting registered with one of these programs can provide a level of accreditation as well as access to a pool of motivated and screened talent. You can also get one step ahead by seeking an advocate or reference for your food truck business from college professors or staff members. This is why it often makes sense to approach culinary schools or colleges that you know or have attended.

Paying Interns

If you are serious about attracting the right talent and creating a program that nurtures your future food truck staff members, then your compensation needs to reflect this. Can’t quite afford that? Unpaid internships are a legal option; however, there are many limits on the work unpaid interns can perform:

Unpaid interns cannot do any work that contributes to a food truck’s operations. This includes any tasks that help you run your mobile food service business, like cooking (for customer sales), driving the truck from stop to stop, answering emails, etc. Unpaid interns can shadow you or other employees and perform duties that don’t have a business need.

Other Benefits You Might Want to Offer?

Some of the more common benefits offered to interns include paid holidays, and recognition of education time as service time if they are hired to a full-time position. Other benefits to consider include scholarships, flex time, and one-on-one formal mentoring.

Important Workplace and Labor Laws to Consider

Many of the labor laws that apply to employees, such as workplace discrimination laws, also apply to interns. You must also ensure you comply with workplace health and safety laws. Some states also require that you carry workers’ compensation insurance for interns.

We hope this article helps those of you interested in hiring an intern at your food truck and helping fill the talent pool for the mobile food industry for the future.