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Culinary Careers: Spotlight on Restaurant Managers

Job Profile

Restaurant managers are the executives of food. With a bit of food knowledge and a lot of business know-how, these professionals ensure restaurants operate smoothly on every level.

What Does a Restaurant Manager Do?

A restaurant manager's tasks can vary tremendously with title or type of establishment. Still, most perform some or all of the following duties:

  • Employee management: This includes interviewing, hiring, evaluating, and firing staff when necessary. Restaurant managers also oversee scheduling and training functions
  • Financial oversight: This includes overseeing inventory of food, equipment, and supplies; handling employee payroll and tax records; and balancing daily cash and charge receipts against the record
  • Customer service: Restaurant managers make sure all food is served quickly and properly, investigating customer complaints while defusing frustration. When there is a backup in food preparation or service, these managers find out why and resolve the issue
  • General upkeep: Restaurant managers ensure facilities and equipment are properly maintained and arrange for service when necessary
  • Regulation oversight: Restaurant managers ensure that all employees comply with health and food safety standards and that local liquor and fire laws are being enforced

Jobs for Restaurant Managers

There are a number of positions that fall under the umbrella of restaurant management. The most common include:

  • General manager: Heads the establishment.
  • Assistant manager: Supports the general manager.
  • Executive chef: Cooks and oversees all kitchen staff.
  • Dining room manager: Oversees the front of the house, including host and service staff

Types of Food Establishments Hiring Restaurant Managers

When you envision a restaurant manager hard at work, he (or she) is likely working in a full-service restaurant. While that rings true for most of these professionals, they can actually work in a variety of settings. The most common include:

  • Full-service restaurants, from casual to fine dining
  • Fast food chains or quick service establishments
  • Hotel restaurants or other traveler accommodations
  • School or office cafeterias
  • Hospital or elderly care facilities

History and Trends in Restaurant Management

Restaurant managers come from a long line of hospitality professionals with a history dating back to the Roman era. The earliest US restaurants appeared in the 1700s as settlers from other countries made new homes in the colonies, particularly members of the French elite fleeing their revolution. Still, fine dining establishments didn't really take root until the 1800s, and not until the 1900s for modern casual dining and fast food restaurants.

Today, however, food is all the rage. Reality shows like Top Chef and the rise of the food blogging community have paved the way for an influx of people wanting to work in the culinary industry. Restaurant management has become a more popular profession, particularly among those with more business savvy than knife skills, or among chefs tired of working the line.

How Will Formal Education Help You Become a Restaurant Manager?

Restaurant management positions have historically been filled by those with extensive restaurant experience willing to learn on the job. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), that's changing. More employers than ever before are recruiting managers with two- or four-year degrees or professional certifications.

Types of Restaurant Management Degrees & Certifications

When it comes to formal training, there are a variety of paths to choose from, primarily:

  • Associate's degrees in hospitality or food management from two-year community colleges and career training schools.
  • Bachelor's degrees in hospitality or food management from one of nearly 1,000 colleges and universities offering this type of program.
  • Professional certifications like the Certified Restaurant Facility Professional (CRFP) designation, requiring three to five years of professional experience plus an exam.
  • Degrees in related fields like business or travel and tourism, as long as you show an interest and aptitude for food management.

Restaurant management courses typically hone expertise in a variety of areas, including: nutrition, sanitation, food planning and preparation, business law, management, and accounting. Some schools also offer culinary and food preparation courses, which are ideal for those with culinary experience hoping to become executive chefs. The BLS notes that chain or fine-dining restaurants often require restaurant managers to complete intensive training programs in addition to whatever other training they've completed.

The Benefits of Formal Restaurant Management Training

It's true that most restaurant managers have experience elsewhere in the food business and typically learn on the job, but more employers than ever are hiring those with some type of formal training or certification. Earning your restaurant management degree or certificate can:

  • Give you an edge over job competition.
  • Provide quicker advancement by replacing years of industry experience.
  • Improve your earning potential

What Is the Job Outlook for Restaurant Managers?

The job outlook for restaurant managers is bittersweet. The BLS reports that food manager jobs are expected to grow by only 5 percent between 2008 and 2018, much slower than the average for all jobs. Fortunately, there should still be a number of positions available to budding restaurant managers as their predecessors retire or switch professions.

How Has the Economy Impacted Restaurant Managers?

Like many other industries, the restaurant industry has taken a hit with the declining national economy. The BLS says the number of eating establishments overall is expected to drop through 2020, though there should be increased demand for inexpensive and quick-service restaurants.

The National Restaurant Industry notes that while 2008 and 2009 were rough years for the food industry, job growth is expected to resume in 2010, and 1.3 million new jobs should be added by 2020. While value and convenience should remain key considerations for diners, restaurant sales are expected to increase modestly in 2010, following two years of declines.

Perhaps the most notable impact the economy has had on restaurant managers involves their evolving skill sets. Today's manager must:

  • Improve employee morale
  • Know how and when to cut staff
  • Know how to manage food costs and when to raise prices
  • Negotiate better deals from vendors
  • Keep on top of industry news and adapt accordingly

Average Restaurant Manager Salary

Title, work experience, and education impact on how much you can earn as a restaurant manager, but type of establishment is probably the biggest indicator. Here are salary statistics by establishment from the BLS's May 2009 report:

  • Traveler accommodation: $60,630
  • Special food services: $56,460
  • Full-service: $53,750
  • Schools: $49,340
  • Quick service: $45,370

Investing in a restaurant management degree could improve your earning potential significantly. Earn your degree now and prepare to join the food service industry as it is once again poised for growth in coming years.

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