Updated: Jul 17
I've always been a foodie of sorts. I love trying cuisines of all types, nationalities, and flavors. A number of months ago, my wife and I were in a restaurant and I had a thought.
How cool would it be to make money by eating delicious foods?
Yes, it is possible, and there are plenty of ways in which you can taste test, enjoy delicious food, and make some money doing so.
Here are a number of different strategies you can use to make money as a taste tester.
What is taste testing?
Taste testing is the process of evaluating a food or dish's flavor, texture, and presentation to help decide whether a food is good enough to be added to a menu or listed for sale.
While some companies, organizations, and restaurants have full-time taste testers on their payrolls, many others hire freelancers to help on a part-time basis. Whether part of a full-time gig or a side hustle, the functions of the job are largely the same.
You'll be tasked to sample foods or drinks, and then evaluate the product(s):
Depending on the type of taste testing gig, you may work on a quality assurance task or a new product testing altogether.
These tastings are oftentimes far more detailed and scientific than many would believe, and may require participants to qualify based on preference, demographic, or other eligibility criteria.
Depending on the type of side hustle, you may complete your tests in a focus group setting.
Find taste-testing jobs and get paid to eat
Although taste testing is unlikely to be a remote side hustle, it is one that could be worth it for you. Luckily, there are numerous ways in which you can get paid to eat. Among the many options you may consider are:
Taste testing on a freelance basis
Becoming a food critic
Review food through a blog
Become a mystery diner
Let's jump right into this list.
1. Taste test for a company
This is the most common approach to making money by eating. In this approach, you'll apply to work for a restaurant chain or marketing company that is looking to test a new product.
You may decide to apply with some of the nation's leading market companies, including:
Matrix Sciences/Contract Testing
Or, you may try to work directly for a restaurant or food producer yourself. Companies that routinely hire for taste testing include Kraft Heinz, Nestle, Hershey's, Dole, and other companies too.
Remember - when you work for one of these businesses, you will be paid to eat.
The feedback that you provide will be merged with other respondent feedback, and it will then be used to decide whether the recipes or formulas that you tried need to be adjusted or changed in any way.
Don't expect to be selected every time a need opens. Instead, the profile you create with one of the above companies will be used to decide, since restaurants and chains oftentimes try to market dishes and meals to a certain demographic that may be based on your age, gender, food preferences, or other traits.
You may also consider trying to find open roles in your area by googling "taste testing jobs near me." As you can see, there is no shortage of opportunities available.
2. Work as a food critic
Another way to get paid to eat is to work as a freelance food critic. This can be an especially attractive option for those with a college degree in English or Journalism.
And even if not, you may consider looking for work as a food critic. Food critics review restaurants, dishes, and cuisine for local newspapers, magazines, and periodicals across the country.
Beyond dishes, your readers (or viewers if you go the video route) will also want to hear about:
Finding work as a food critic will require you to build expertise in food, and have the right mixture of experience, education, and culinary expertise to add to readers in your area.
While searching for work, continue to build your resume, take some culinary classes, and fine-tune your writing skills. It is probably a good idea to submit writing samples with your application too.
Getting paid to be a food critic will likely be easier if you already have an established following and web footprint. Our next strategy can help you with this.
3. Start a food blog
You could also get paid to eat by starting your own food blog. In your blog, you may review famous restaurant dishes, at-home recipes, or something else altogether.
Whatever you decide to do, you need to make sure there is a market and demand for your niche. We have these tips to help you decide what types of content to create:
Conduct SEO keyword research through sites like SERanking, Ahrefs, or Ubersuggest
Conduct market research by polling others on what type of food content they want to see
Begin writing reviews, how-to guides, and other content to see what resonates
My favorite part about blogging is that it is simple to do. And while the results will take a number of months to appear, if you enjoy writing, this is still a good option for you.
Plus, once you're established, you'll find multiple strategies to monetize your blog, including affiliate marketing, advertising, and other revenue streams.
Consider your blog a blend of taste testing, getting paid to eat, and entrepreneurship.
4. Work as a secret shopper
Okay, we will admit that we were unaware of this practice until we sat down and did further research for this piece, but it is genius. Secret shopping, also known as mystery shopping, is the process by which restaurants work with research companies that hire undercover individuals to go dine at their clients' restaurants.
The reasons for this are easy to understand.
For one, it is a great way for restaurants to understand how they are doing, either as an individual restaurant or a chain. Consider this example.
If Bonefish Grill, just to name one chain restaurant, sent in somebody from corporate in uniform to come to evaluate food, employees would likely notice and create an artificial experience for the corporate employee, defeating the entire purpose of the visit.
But by using mystery shoppers, employees of a restaurant won't have any idea that the diner was hired to be there, and the diner is far more likely to have a visit more typical of the establishment. This way, positives can be commended, while negatives can be addressed and fixed for future diners.
If you're interested in getting paid to be a mystery shopper/diner, you may consider signing up through Mystery Shoppers America, Marketforce, or PrestoShopper.
Apply to work as a taste tester
Getting started as a taste tester is easier than you may think it is! I completed the registration process to be a tester for Matrix Sciences, and I was really impressed by the ease of the process.
After clicking the "register today" button, I was prompted to create a username and password, as well as provide my email address. After this is complete, you'll receive an email that looks something like this:
After this confirmation process is complete, Matrix will ask you to build a profile, where the information that you provide will presumably be used to match you with taste tests you qualify for. You'll answer questions related to demographics and your diet, and then identify which Matrix facility is closest to you.
After that, you'll officially enter to receive emails from Matrix regarding open studies and surveys in need of taste testers. In other words, you'll be ready to start earning by eating.
How much money do taste testers make?
Taste tester pay varies based on the company and the type of testing you are conducting. That said, you can make good money, and depending on your role, may be paid via direct deposit, gift cards, or vouchers.
In fact, those working part-time earn around $15-$30 an hour, with about $20 seemingly the average. This means that, should you find 10 hours of work per week to keep you busy, you can potentially supplement your income by over $10,000 per year.
Of course, many gigs, like with Matrix above, are on an as-needed basis, but you can still make good money and have fun while doing it. Something else to keep in mind is that you can opt to use more than one of the strategies we've discussed here.
For example, you may opt to participate in tastings as they become available in your area, but you may also apply to be mystery diners on the side as well. And depending on how much time you have on your hands, you may even start a blog about your experiences too!
Of course, if you decide to start a blog, then your earnings will be highly dependent on your success in driving traffic to your site.
Tips to get paid to eat
If you're going to eat for money, you'll want to follow these basic money-making tips that I've picked up on over the past couple of years.
Apply to multiple different market research companies: This is especially true if you live in or near a major city with lots of companies around. You never know which restaurant groups in your area may be looking for testers at any given time.
Network with professionals: Try to find and network with other taste testers in your area. By creating these connections, you'll begin to organically hear about opportunities as they arise.
Work on your writing skills: If your intent is to become a food critic, either through your own website or by working part-time or full-time for a media source, then you'll need to continuously refine your writing skills. Begin to do things like read about SEO and learn more about writing conventions.
My view on taste testing for money
In my opinion, getting paid to eat is a great potential side hustle for those that are passionate about food.
Sure, other side gigs may pay higher wages, but will they be as fun or delicious?
In my recommendation, as long as you think through the various ways in which you can earn some extra money, you can likely find enough work to make it worth it.
Plus - when it comes to getting paid to eat, it is hard to pass up!
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