4 Food and Drink Side Gigs to Bring in Extra Cash

A man mixes a cocktail outdoors while wearing a Hawaiian printed shirt.
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As the world slowly recovers from the COVID pandemic, there’s certainly a growing demand to get out and eat good food again. Maybe even have a carefully curated cocktail or a craft beer.

But there’s been a shift in the hospitality industry. Some workers simply aren’t coming back, while others are looking to go a different route in the business. That means there are opportunities to make money in the hard-hit food and beverage field.

And if the Great Resignation has taught us anything, it’s that people are open to making a major change in their careers. The 35-year-old accountant quitting to go to culinary school or take on an apprenticeship at a craft brewery might have been a stretch 10 years ago. Today? Not as much.

The food industry has more opportunities than ever — including simply setting up shop at home to start your business. Or maybe making some quick cash working in catering during what is expected to be the busiest wedding season in nearly four decades.

Make Some Extra Cash With These 4 Popular Food and Drink Gigs

One of the hardest hit industries over the last two years has been restaurants. According to the National Restaurant Association, 90,000 either permanently or temporarily closed in 2021.

So how are opportunities for new careers or side gigs even possible in this climate? We rounded up four ways to make some extra cash in the food and beverage industry.

Start a Baking Business from Home

Are your apple pies delicious? Do people rave about your homemade macarons? If so, a home-based baking business might be perfect for you.

If you want to know how to start a baking business from home, know you’ll need between $5,000 to $10,000 to get going so you can pull in a monthly income of $1,000 to $2,000. That depends on a lot of variables, such as how extensive you want the business, where you live, how many hours you work and so on.

Here’s a quick rundown of just some things to think about:

  • Decide on a specialty. Is it going to be snickerdoodles or chocolate raspberry brownies? Ask around to find out which of your specialties your friends and family like best.
  • Do your market research. Look at what other bakers in your area are making. Visit markets and vendors. Find out who your target market will be.
  • Think about starting lean. Starting out, you want to shape your business around your life, not the other way around. Use as many free tools and resources as you can before you start spending a lot of money.
  • Know home baking regulations. Each state is different, so you’ll want to know the cottage food laws where you live. You’ll also need to make sure you have any licenses or certifications in order.
Want more detail? Check out our foolproof guide to starting a baking business at home.

A male serves a beer to a customer.
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Find Side Gigs in Catering

The catering industry certainly took a hit over the last two years, but it’s making a rebound in 2022. Following an already near-record number of weddings in 2021, which saw nearly 2 million couples tie the knot across the country, this year is projected to have the most weddings since 1984. That’s great news for caterers.

Now is a great time for people looking for catering side gigs. Some of the particulars include:

  • Weekends only. Wedding caterers obviously work mostly on Saturday or Sunday, with possible prep on Fridays, meaning this is a great side gig to supplement your weekday income.
  • Responsibilities run the gamut. From bartenders and cooks, to servers and general kitchen staff. The shifts are around seven to 10 hours.
  • The wages are competitive. Catering staff tend to get paid better than restaurant staff. And with the hospitality industry suffering a worker shortage, the pay is even better. Plus, tips.
  • What are caterers looking for? People who are courteous, well-mannered, pay attention to detail, have a good work ethic and have a positive attitude. Flexibility with schedule and prior experience is also helpful.
Go even deeper with this advice on how to land a catering gig.

Become a Bartender on the Side

If you have bartending skills, you don’t necessarily have to set up shop at a restaurant full time. Freelance bartending gigs can bring in some serious cash from private parties and events.

But simply mixing a drink isn’t the only thing that goes into being a great freelance bartender. Let’s look at an overview:

  • A great personality helps. You also need the ability to read the room — to know when a guest wants to chat or when they simply want to get their drink and move on. When appropriate, a sense for the theatrics never hurts.
  • Start small if needed. You need at least six months to get really proficient at mixing drinks and memorizing basic recipes. It helps to have restaurant experience prior to freelancing. Or, you might even volunteer your services at some smaller parties, then use those clients as references for paid parties later.
  • The pay is competitive. Freelance bartenders make an average of $22 per hour, which comes out to more than $46,000 per year. Indeed can fill you in on what the rates are in your area of the country. Tips can really take your income to the next level.
Learn how to make up to $50 an hour as a freelance bartender.

A woman sits at a table with her charcuterie board next to her.
Kaycee Anderson turned her hobby of making charcuterie boards into a paying side hustle, Coastal Charcuterie. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

Get on Board with Charcuterie

During the pandemic, Kaycee Anderson from St. Petersburg, Florida, started her own charcuterie business. “A lot of people wanted something different that could be delivered to their homes,” she said. From there, Coastal Charcuterie was born.

If deliciously presented cheeses and meats sound fun to you, here are a few of Anderson’s tips to starting your own charcuterie business.

  • Know the startup costs. For Anderson, that was only about $300 to pay for one larger nice wooden board, plus hard plastic boards of varying sizes with tops. She also bought some decorative bowls and tongs.
  • Learn the art of charcuterie. Anderson recommends several charcuterie books including On Boards by Lisa Dawn Bolton; That Cheese Plate Will Change Your Life by Marissa Mullen and Beautiful Boards by Maegan Brown.
  • Know where to go for the best product. Anderson goes to Sam’s Club to buy products for her bigger boards because she says they have the best prices. One wheel of Brie will last for three boards. For smaller boards, Anderson goes to Aldi because of their variety and unique cheeses.
  • Use social media. It’s a no brainer these days, but still worth mentioning. The best way to promote your brand is through social media. Interact and engage with your audience and potential customers. And use relevant hashtags like #charcuteriesofinstagram.
Get the full story on how Kaycee Anderson started her charcuterie business, plus her seven tips for success.

Robert Bruce is a Senior Writer for The Penny Hoarder.