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Food for Thought: What Does It Take to Be a Restaurant Manager?

Ever gone to a restaurant, had stellar service, and enjoyed an excellent meal? While cooks make the food, restaurant managers work behind the scenes to create the right experience for their customers. In all, restaurant managers coordinate the kitchen and dining room, ensure that their customers enjoy themselves and their meals, and make certain that they have all the necessary staff and supplies to keep things running smoothly.

On the human resources side, restaurant managers hire and train new workers, coordinate the payroll, maintain employee work records, and assign staff hours and duties. Other restaurant manager responsibilities require strong business skills, such as accurately tracking inventory, determining costs, and balancing accounts.

To keep their patrons satisfied, restaurant manager duties also include monitoring the restaurant to guarantee that food is served swiftly and efficiently. Along with overseeing the cuisine, they supervise their staff in keeping the restaurant clean, meeting health and safety standards, and following local liquor regulations.

Seem like a lot? With all these complex components, a restaurant manager’s job may seem overwhelming. Restaurant management schools can help teach these skills.

Restaurant Management Degrees and Curriculum

Culinary and restaurant management degree programs are offered in culinary schools, vocational schools, community colleges, and in universities.

Programs in culinary and restaurant management typically lead towards an associate or bachelor’s degree. An associate degree usually takes two years to complete, while a bachelor’s degree typically takes four. Students taking restaurant management courses can learn about:

  • Accounting and finances
  • Human resources management
  • Nutrition, sanitation, food preparation and planning
  • Computer science relevant for running a business

While associate degree programs have the advantage of a shorter time commitment, bachelor’s degree programs may give students a more extensive skill set. Approximately 1,000 colleges and universities throughout the U.S. offer four-year degree programs in restaurant management or similar fields, and many are beginning to offer graduate degrees as well.

Many restaurant management degree programs also include an internship as a necessary part of their curriculum – important for gaining professional experience before transitioning into a restaurant manager role.

Is Restaurant Management School Necessary?

Aspiring culinary and restaurant managers have a lot of other skills to acquire that are not necessarily taught in a classroom. For example, successful restaurant managers are leaders. Restaurant managers must maintain self-confidence, exercise good attention to detail, and use problem solving skills. Good restaurant managers are also good communicators since they must handle customers, employees, and important suppliers with skill and care.

A lot of restaurant manager training, covering business and people skills, comes from previous experience in the food industry. Some restaurant managers enter their position without ever earning a degree, instead counting on years of experience as cooks or as waiters or waitresses. Practical experience is also an important part of just finding positions in culinary and restaurant management.

Especially in upscale restaurants and restaurant chains, however, employers increasingly prefer to hire managers with a post-secondary education. Many restaurant management schools require internships and industry experience in order to graduate, which can help identify future employment. In this competitive industry, a degree assuring employers of a broad base of business skills can certainly be a strong asset.

Average Restaurant Manager Salary

The salary of a restaurant manager can vary widely depending on the workplace and the type of establishment. The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that in 2008, the median annual restaurant manager salary was $46,320, the middle 50 percent earning between $36,670 and $59,580. Among the industries employing the highest numbers of restaurant managers, the average annual restaurant manager salary came to:

  • $54,710 in traveler accommodation sites
  • $52,680 at special food services establishments
  • $49,420 in full-service restaurants
  • $41,320 in limited-service eating places, including fast food restaurants

Most restaurant managers are salaried employees; however, the remaining 42 percent are self-employed, working in independent restaurants and other eating establishments. For those that are salaried, culinary and restaurant managers committed to future employment are provided additional training in addition to the typical benefits. Others may even earn bonuses according to high sales volume.

Options for Restaurant Management Careers

According to bls.gov, the field of restaurant management overall is expected to have 5 percent job growth from 2008 to 2018, which is slower than other occupations on average. This job growth will vary by industry. Most of these new jobs should be found in full-service restaurants and limited service eating places, but a significant number of restaurant management jobs will be found in grocery stores, the retail and recreation industries, and at health care and elder care facilities.

Still, restaurant managers may work anywhere food is served, from school cafeterias to upscale dining rooms. Graduates of restaurant management schools may also qualify to work in catering, start their own restaurant, or work in corporate management for large restaurant or hotel chains.

For those who love sharing food and making a business run smoothly, pursuing a career in restaurant management may be a rewarding decision. Restaurant management degrees can help the aspiring manager move ahead.

Additional Resources for Students in Restaurant Management
Bureau of Labor Statistics information on careers in restaurant management
Occupational Information Network (O*NET) on career skills important to restaurant managers

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