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How to Become a Food Services Manager

Though chefs sometimes get all the glory, any one who has watched Kitchen Nightmares knows that a restaurant cannot run without good management. The same can be said for all organizations that serve food--not just restaurants. It's the job of the food services director to make sure that all aspects of the food service business run smoothly.

Culinary Arts

Food services manager job description

Food services directors, or managers, are the business managers. On the business end of things, they hire and fire employees and deal with payroll and training issues. On a day-to-day basis, food service managers are responsible for opening and closing a kitchen and making sure equipment is clean and in good repair. In the food service industry, managers must meet health department codes and adhere to local liquor regulations, so they must stay up-to-date on state and local regulations. They also deal with customer concerns.

When it comes to managing both food and the kitchen, food services directors are responsible for:

  • Creating a successful menu based on customer demands and trends
  • Analyzing recipes to figure out the production cost of each menu item and pricing dishes accordingly
  • Estimating food consumption and anticipating events/trends such as Sunday Night Football or holidays
  • Placing orders for food and checking-in these deliveries
  • Coordinating with restaurant suppliers to purchase kitchen equipment, plates, silverware, and other supplies

In some food establishments, food services directors are part of the management staff, including one or more assistant managers, a separate manager for the front of the house, an executive chef who runs the kitchen operations, and sometimes a general manager. Overall, food service management is demanding, intense work that requires a 50-60 hour work week, depending on the establishment. Food service directors of institutional facilities such as school or office cafeterias tend to work daytime hours during the regular work week. This isn't true of restaurant management staff who frequently work weekends, holidays, and late evenings when people tend to dine out.

Food services director jobs can be found in:

  • School cafeterias
  • Office or factory cafeterias
  • Hospitals
  • Hotels
  • Fine dining restaurants
  • Family dining restaurants
  • Fast-food restaurants
  • Banquet halls

Food services manager educational requirements

Though some people learn to be a food services director from working in the kitchen and promoting up, others choose formal education.Typically, food services director education includes instruction in food planning and preparation, nutrition, sanitation, business law and management, accounting, and computer science. Some programs may require culinary labs or on-the-job experience through internships.

Food service management degrees

Hospitality management and culinary schools offer two- and four-year restaurant or food service management programs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), almost 1,000 universities and colleges offer bachelor's degree programs in institutional food service or restaurant and hotel management programs. More and more schools are also offering graduate degrees in similar fields. Also, many more educational institutions, such as community colleges and technical institutes, offer associate's degrees to become a food services director. Lastly, the number crunching business side of the business lends itself to distance learning, so consider online food services director degree programs as well.

Food service management certification

Some food services directors opt for Foodservice Management Professional (FMP) certification, though the BLS notes that such certification isn't a requirement for advancement. To qualify for FMP certification, you must have three years of management experience in food services or a restaurant. If you have a least an associate's degree in hospitality or business, you're only required to have two years of experience. You also need to earn the Food Protection Manager Certification (FPMC), which ensures that food services directors know proper sanitation and food safety techniques. Both FMP and FPMC certifications require you to pass an exams.

Food services manager salary and job growth

As of May 2014, the BLS reported that there were 198,610 food service managers in the U.S. Projections for employment between 2014 and 2024 show an expected growth of 5 percent, which is a little below average compared to other jobs. Overall, growth is expected to vary by industry. Jobs in health care or elder care facilities are expected to increase. The BLS notes, "Most new jobs will be in full-service restaurants and limited service eating places."

Like most jobs, the salary for food service directors may vary by locations and by industry. On average, food services managers made $53,500 per year in 2014, with the top 10 percent making $82,360, according to BLS data. According to that same data, here's what to expect from the various industries that employ food service managers:

  • Special Food Services: 12,380 employed; $58,150 average salary
  • Restaurants and Other Eating Places: 139,290 employed; $51,130 average salary
  • Drinking Places (Alcoholic Beverages): 2,020 0.56 $26.00 $54,080 average salary
  • Traveler Accommodation: 8,950 0.48 $29.81 $62,010 average salary
  • Office Administrative Services: 1,990 0.44 $27.20 $56,570 average salary

Overall, becoming a food services director requires that you be calm and flexible and able to coordinate many different things at once. If this sounds like a challenge you're up to, then you could be ready for a career (and education) that blends food know-how with business sense.

Sources:

  • Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, United States, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm
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