What does a restaurant manager do? They are the people working behind the scenes to make sure restaurants run smoothly. Also known as food service managers, their jobs may entail all the following:
- Hiring employees, training them and overseeing their work.
- Scheduling workers to ensure full staffing and managing payroll.
- Managing restaurant inventory, including ordering food and beverages.
- Responding to customer concerns or complaints.
- Ensuring a restaurant meets food safety standards.
There are no formal restaurant manager education requirements, but many employers are looking for managers with some experience or education.
Restaurant Management Specializations
At smaller establishments, a restaurant manager may be responsible for all aspects of food preparation and service. However, at larger or upscale restaurants, those duties may be split among multiple managers. This can lead to the following specialized roles, inlcuding the following:
- Dining room managers supervise wait staff, manage payroll, assist in menu development and monitor food and beverage costs.
- Kitchen managers are in charge of back-of-the-house operations and maintain health and safety standards, order supplies and equipment, plan menus, control food costs and coordinate kitchen staff.
- Beverage managers coordinate all services related to bars, lounges and other beverage-related components of the business, which can include creating bar menus, booking entertainment and hosting special events.
- Catering managers book and plan parties and other larger group functions both at a restaurant and off-site, from menu planning and décor to staffing and entertainment
How to Become a Restaurant Manager
If you want to become a restaurant manager, you could start as a server or cook and work your way up. Or you could use the following steps to jump right into a career as a restaurant manager:
- Earn a high school diploma or GED.
- Complete a postsecondary education program. Employers are increasingly looking for managers who have attended a restaurant management school or who have a similar level of education or experience.
- Become certified. Although not required, earning a professional certification can be a good way to demonstrate your expertise to potential employers.
Regardless of your specific career path, you'll need knowledge of the following topics to be successful as a restaurant manager:
- Food Safety
Restaurant management certificates and degrees
There are no formal restaurant manager education requirements, but many employers are looking for managers with some experience or education. If you don't have experience, you can get ready for this career by completing one of three levels of restaurant management training programs.
- Certificate: A certificate provides an introduction to restaurant management concepts. Students learn about selecting menus, improving guest experiences and controlling costs. There are many restaurant management certificate programs online, and these can often be completed in one or two semesters.
- Associate Degree: A two-year associate degree will dive deeper into many of the topics covered in a certificate program. You can expect to learn about business communication, special events planning, quality control and more.
- Bachelor's Degree: You won't need a four-year degree for most restaurant management jobs, but earning a bachelor's degree could be helpful if you want to pursue jobs in upscale establishments and at luxury resorts.
Apprenticeships for restaurant managers
Although a relatively new and somewhat limited option, some restaurants offer paid apprenticeships to train new restaurant managers. The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation received a $1.8 million contract from the Department of Labor in 2016 to launch the Hospitality Sector Registered Apprenticeship Project. The program has ten apprenticeship partners include Golden Corral, Firehouse Subs and Brinker International.
Restaurant management schools
Restaurant management training programs are offered by community colleges, vocational schools, four-year colleges and universities. While many schools offer traditional certificates and degrees, you can also find online restaurant management schools that allow students to review course material from the comfort of their own home. These flexible programs can be ideal for working adults or those with busy families.
Restaurant manager certification
You don't have to be certified to work as a restaurant manager but having a professional credential can set you apart from other job applicants. Here are some examples of certifications available to food service managers:
- Foodservice Management Professional from the National Restaurant Association
- Food Protection Manager from ServSafe
- Certified Restaurant Facility Professional from the Restaurant Facility Management Association
Eligibility for professional certifications can vary, but applicants typically must meet minimum education or experience requirements and pass an exam in order to be credentialed.
Career advancement for restaurant managers
Some restaurant managers start out as servers, cooks or hosts before moving into a managerial role. Existing managers may further their career by applying for positions at more prestigious restaurants. Some may even go on to open their own food establishments.
Restaurant Managers Skills and Qualities
To be successful as a restaurant manager, you should expect to master the following:
- Management of Personnel Resources: A core duty for restaurant managers is ensuring staffing levels are correct, workers are trained properly and jobs are being completed in a safe and efficient manner.
- Service Orientation: Restaurant managers must be focused on how they can improve the customer experience and improve service.
- Instructing: Managers may have to train new staff or they may be responsible for correcting errors made by current workers. Either way, a good restaurant manager must be able to provide instructions clearly and cordially.
- Oral Expression: Communication is essential to all of a manager's major job duties, and they must be able to express themselves well.
- Problem Sensitivity: A manager needs to be able to anticipate problems in advance to keep a restaurant operating smoothly.
Career Outlook and Salary Information for Restaurant Managers
The chart below shows nationwide restaurant manager salary figures, along with those of related careers. However, actual incomes can vary depending on where someone work as well as their experience and education. A seasoned manager at an upscale establishment will likely earn more than a recent graduate working at a small restaurant. The numbers below also show the expected job growth for the occupations nationwide in the coming years.
Professional Resources for Restaurant Managers
To stay on top of the latest trends in the food service and hospitality industries, check out the following resources:
- National Restaurant Association - Representing more than 500,000 restaurants nationwide, the National Restaurant Association has spent the last 100 years advocating for the food service industry.
- Restaurant Facility Management Association - This organization offers education and events to help restaurant managers advance their careers.
- National Restaurant Association Educational Fund - The NRAEF website includes information about the Hospitality Sector Registered Apprenticeship Project.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Food Service Managers, Accessed February 2019, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/food-service-managers.htm
- Certificate in Food and Beverage Management, The Hotel School, Cornell SC Johnson College of Business, Accessed February 2019, https://sha.cornell.edu/admissions-programs/executive-education/catalog/online/certificates/SHAC27
- Associate of Applied Science in Hotel and Restaurant Management, Stratford University, Accessed February 2019, https://www.stratford.edu/culinary-arts-and-hospitality/associate-hotel-and-restaurant-management
- Hospitality Sector Registered Apprenticeship Project, National Restaurant Association Educational Fund, Accessed February 2019, https://chooserestaurants.org/Discover-Opportunities/Apprenticeship/FAQs
- Food Service Managers, O*Net Online, Accessed February 2019, https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/11-9051.00