Becoming a restaurant manager can be an exciting and rewarding career. Restaurant management involves overseeing restaurant functions such as staff, food quality, customer service, financials, marketing, and operations. To become a restaurant manager, you will need the appropriate education credentials that may include a degree in hospitality or restaurant management. This type of formal training may also prepare you for other restaurant-related positions, such as restaurant owners or kitchen managers. Additionally, gaining knowledge of key personnel in the restaurant industry as well as increasing your network connections, can help you to reach your restaurant management goals. With this vital combination of qualifications and experience, you can gain the tools to work in restaurant management and achieve a successful career successfully.
What Does a Restaurant Manager Do?
Restaurant managers oversee daily operations at a variety of food and beverage establishments, including restaurants and hotels. While their scope of work often depends on the type and size of the restaurant, restaurant managers often engage with customers and ensure the food quality and experience exceeds expectations. They also address any concerns or problems that arise throughout the restaurant. Most restaurant managers are also responsible for:
- Hiring and training employees
- Handling employee schedules
- Inspecting equipment
- Verifying compliance with health and safety regulations
- Managing payroll records
- Ordering food and supplies
How Much Do Restaurant Managers Make?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, food service managers earn a median pay of $56,590 as of 2020. Often, it’s possible to earn quite a bit more. The BLS data suggests that the top 10 percent of restaurant managers earn over $94,770 per year.
Although the pandemic significantly impacted the hospitality industry, the BLS projects a 15 percent growth in employment for food service managers as the economy recovers. This compares favorably to the expected growth rate of 8 percent across all industries.
Restaurant Manager Skills Needed
Hospitality management often encompasses many roles, in addition to a restaurant manager, and requires diverse skill sets. The most effective restaurant managers demonstrate a blend of soft skills, technical knowledge, and on-the-spot problem-solving.
Restaurant managers need to communicate effectively with a variety of individuals, such as employees, vendors, or customers. They also may spend quite a bit of time working on their own or with other restaurant leadership to strategize business goals, inventory, schedules, budgeting, and more. To become a successful restaurant manager, you should become an expert in the following skills:
No two days are alike for a restaurant general manager. This reality lends the profession much excitement, but also prompts a series of new challenges you must solve.
For example, as a restaurant manager, you may need to address changes in venue traffic to keep guest wait times to a minimum—but without scheduling too many employees for a given shift. You may also encounter unexpected regulatory changes or supply chain issues, which may impact your ability to serve popular menu items. Effective, proactive, and creative problem-solving skills are imperative to succeed as a restaurant manager.
2. Basic Financial Knowledge
For some restaurant managers, the chief struggle lies not in producing an excellent experience for guests, but rather continuing to manage profitability for the establishment. Restaurant managers must feel comfortable with financial numbers and analysis in order to be successful in their career and manage a successful restaurant. If you’re an aspiring restaurant manager, consider refining your financial skills, taking courses, or continuing your education. These financial matters are especially important:
- Ratio analysis
- Regression analysis
- Double-entry systems
- Intangible assets
- Sales forecasting
Many hospitality managers hire bookkeepers or outside payroll services to handle financial tasks that they may be too busy to tackle on their own. However, it’s important to understand the financial concepts involved in these procedures, as the role is ultimately responsible for ensuring that all business records are accurate.
As technology continues to evolve, restaurant managers should understand how to use a variety of programs to streamline tasks that otherwise may eat up a lot of manual effort. Advanced technology can improve restaurant efficiency, marketing, and general profitability—hospitality managers should consider:
- Installing and maintaining a point-of-sale system
- Evaluating and selecting waitlist management solutions
- Reducing waste and labor costs with automated inventory tracking
- Analyzing and implementing new smart solutions based on establishment goals and needs
In addition to mastering the most advanced technological systems currently available in the culinary industry, restaurant managers need to be flexible enough to adapt to additional developments when they arise. For example, during the pandemic, many restaurants adopted online ordering technology to adapt to the changing environment. Such technological flexibility can be gained through continued exposure to new tech over time or by exploring trends and upcoming advancements while enrolled in a hospitality-oriented bachelor’s program.
4. Motivational Skills
With new challenges arising every day in the fast-paced hospitality environment, it’s imperative that managers exemplify excellent motivational skills to keep staff morale high. During peak times when staff may be stressed, a little motivation can go a long way.
5. Conflict Management
The high-stakes, fast-paced restaurant environment has a way of producing conflicts among even the most well-meaning employees and guests. Conflict management keeps the restaurant environment as harmonious as possible and facilitates a positive and productive work culture. Managers should understand how to not only prevent conflict, but also deescalate and resolve it when situations arise. This can be difficult to master without the experience in a supervisory role, but college courses focused on human resources will help, as will internship experiences.
As you develop your conflict management skills, remember to listen actively, remain unbiased and objective, utilize neutral language, and work towards a collaborative solution. Sometimes, you may have to agree to disagree—and that’s okay. However, it’s important that you speak calmly, demonstrate compassion, and allow each party to feel heard.
How to Become a Restaurant Manager
Now that you know about the skills you need to excel as a restaurant manager, it’s time to expand your knowledge and develop a plan to find your dream job. Several paths can be taken to get you into your preferred position—but all approaches require significant commitment. Keep the following to-dos in mind as you prepare to enter the world of hospitality management:
1. Gain Experience
The path to becoming a restaurant manager begins, naturally, with working in a restaurant. Exposure to a variety of workplaces and managers will provide critical insight into which strategies work best in various situations. Additionally, experience as a host, server, or line cook can help you pinpoint common sources of concern and how they might be resolved through effective leadership.
From a practical perspective, it’s essential to gain experience before applying for hospitality management positions. Many management-level jobs are only available to those who have worked several years in the industry. Starting at the bottom may initially seem dispiriting, but remember, many employees are able to quickly rise through the ranks.
Finally, experience can help you determine whether a future in hospitality is right for you. Not all people are comfortable working in this fast-paced industry—and that’s okay. Often, the only way to discern passion for this field is to seek out entry-level positions and deal with the nuances of this environment, both good and bad.
2. Earn a Degree
While it’s possible to climb the hospitality career ladder through experience alone, this approach can take years or even decades and there’s no guarantee that you’ll move into a management position. If you prefer to ascend quickly, you can shave years off your career timeline by seeking a targeted bachelor’s degree.
Multiple programs allow you to gain an edge as you apply for management jobs. The Bachelor of Science in Culinary Arts and Food Service Management is a great option if you’ve already earned your associate degree and are ready to boost both your professional status and pay. This degree applies major concepts, skills, and values of the food service management profession to address industry problems both locally and globally. Graduates will also develop their communication skills to connect with diverse audiences, purposes, and situations, as well as utilize decision-support tools to further solve new challenges.
If you haven’t completed your associate’s degree and are looking for another viable option, the Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Management takes a broad overview of the hospitality industry. This program prepares you for success not only in the restaurant industry, but also for working in hotels and a variety of other tourism-oriented businesses. In your coursework, you’ll learn about menu planning and cost control, hospitality strategy design and execution, management skills, and more.
3. Sell Yourself
Once your resume is equipped with sufficient experience and a bachelor’s degree, it’s time to show it off to prospective employers. Don’t be shy; this is your chance to prove that you have what it takes to succeed in a competitive industry.
If you’re interested in exploring a specific niche within the food service sector, develop a personal brand that reflects your passion and expertise. Show off this brand via online platforms such as LinkedIn and while attending networking events in person. Draw on connections gained from previous employment or, better yet, your bachelor’s degree program. With confidence and a solid resume, you’ll have no trouble scoring a great job.
If you want to become a restaurant manager, refine your skills and earn your bachelor’s degree in culinary arts and food service management from Johnson & Wales University. We’re recognized as a trusted and respected institution across the globe with a reputation for excellence among hospitality employers.
We’ve built a network of industry connections that span across the globe. Our graduates work for many prestigious organizations, such as Marriott International, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, and Hyatt Hotels.