How to Become A Restaurant Manager: Skills and Strategies
Few careers offer entry-level flexibility than do those as a restaurant manager in the food industry. While some take a more formal path by obtaining certifications, getting a Hospital Management associate degree, or even a bachelor’s degree related to restaurant management, others will opt for on-the-job training with a high school diploma or GED in hand to gather valuable knowledge in the food service industry. Whether you are enrolling in one of the more than 1000 colleges that offer degrees in restaurant and hospitality management, or getting your feet wet by starting in one of the many front-of-house (FOH) or back-of-house (BOH) positions, managing restaurants offers a worthy career for those who have the leadership and organizational skills to create thriving restaurant establishments.
The Basic Roadmap
With or without a formal hospitality degree, it’s uncommon for someone to “walk on” to a restaurant manager position without having some real, applicable restaurant experience. It’s not unusual for people in jobs like line-cook or table bussers to work up to these management positions. The fast-paced grind of restaurant work is the best teacher. Know that even with a degree, you’ll have to earn some stripes before becoming a restaurant manager.
Generally, each management milestone includes an increase in pay and benefits, but also in hours and responsibilities. Starting at a mid-level restaurant management position, sometimes called a “shift manager,” you’ll direct a small team (a “shift”), and configure things like scheduling, opening or closing.
At the assistant restaurant manager level, the job becomes more of a career, with hourly wages usually becoming salary and a ramp-up in expectations. The top of the proverbial restaurant management heap though is the general manager. It’s here where the responsibilities of running the restaurant merge with more of the high-level business tasks like financials, marketing campaigns, purchasing decisions, etc.
Restaurant Manager Skills
Think you have what it takes to be the next head honcho of your favorite restaurant? You’ll need some serious organizational, financial, communication and problem-solving skills. And, did we mention an excellent pair of shoes? You’ll be on your feet most of the time, likely doing circles around your most committed “10,000 steps a day” friends. Here’s what you will need to not only succeed but to knock it out of the park on a daily basis.
Basic Financial and Computer Knowledge
In restaurant management positions, budgeting and bookkeeping are high on the list of administrative duties, so dust off your math and estimating skills because you will need those. You’ll also drive restaurant efficiencies through the use of technology, so grab a computer and get comfortable with spreadsheets and various restaurant software options to improve operations.
Day in and day out, you will be solving problems as a restaurant manager. Shipments won’t arrive on time, electricity goes out, accidents happen, and staff calls in sick. When things go awry, like a customer complaint, you are the go-to guy or gal to solve these problems. Developing a knack for thinking on your feet will save you an early head of gray hair in this profession.
Leadership skills are paramount, too. To drive efficiencies and extract the level of restaurant-needed speed and accuracy from your employees requires leadership. You’ll be overseeing food preparation, as well as training employees to give forth their best efforts in customer service. You may also be called upon to network and speak to your local community to drive awareness of and traffic to your restaurant.
Restaurants have many moving parts. Keeping that culinary ship moving in the right direction is the difference between hitting an iceberg and sailing smoothly into the port. You’ll be stocking the restaurant with food and drink supplies, as well as overseeing staffing needs and changes on a consistent basis.
Restaurant Customer service and Interpersonal Skills
Orders don’t arrive on time; someone finds a hair in their food. Each of these less-than-perfect incidents will require your attention, mitigation and empathy. Do it with finesse, and you have a customer for life. Fall short, and you’ve lost out on future revenue. Introverts, or those who’d not consider themselves a “people person” need not apply to become a restaurant manager.
You will be dealing with suppliers, staff, chefs and owners, all at the same time. Your team-building skills go beyond your immediate employees. They extend to all those who help you offer the best class of restaurant dining. Continuous emphasis on teamwork will reap huge rewards as you build your customer base.
Upholding health and safety standards to comply with city and state requirements is not for the faint of heart. Recording best practices and ensuring your staff follows those practices is a never-ending effort. Compliance is not a checkbox to complete but an ongoing part of your restaurant management efforts.
Finding Restaurant Management Opportunities Within
You may have spent months or years quietly learning the restaurant business behind the scenes, but nothing is shaking loose in the management side of things for you. What can you do? First, speaking up will go a long way. At this point, you must express the interest in restaurant management opportunities. When you do, current managers or owners take a mental note, especially when you have proven your abilities to handle the small details, help others, respect your guests, and have stayed attuned and updated about the menu.
Additionally, it often helps to share your notes with management and owners when visiting other restaurants in your city and the places to which you travel. Upper management craves those efficiency insights and creative observations. You can also ask about restaurant management opportunities that might extend to other cities and states within a more massive chain. Showing initiative and interest get you where you want to go.
Finding External Restaurant Management Opportunities
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job outlook for restaurant managers between 2016 and 2026 stands at 9 percent, while other management opportunities lag slightly with an 8 percent increase over the next decade.
With a formal education or an armful of experience in the food business, you should be able to find a position rather quickly. Use these tactics to scour the job market. By putting your best foot forward in these ways will only increase your chances.
- Actively search for job postings online and in your newspaper. Try Indeed.com, Craigslist, and other online sources, and peruse these sites often.
- Visit potential restaurants in person. Nothing says confidence like an in-person meeting. However, you’ll want to stay away from busy dining and preparation hours. Think 2:30-3:30 pm when making time for a face-to-face meeting.
- Bring copies of your resume. Your resume should focus on your accomplishments rather than a list of your responsibilities. Also, be prepared with two to three strong references that know your work and can speak to your talents.
- Network with other restaurant managers. You can do this online through organizations and LinkedIn groups, attend local culinary events, and make yourself known by showing an interest in who owns which restaurants in your town and making an effort to meet these people.
Restaurant Manager Salary Expectations
During 2017, the median pay for restaurant managers was roughly $52,030 per year, according to the BLS. On the lower end of the pay scale, you can estimate making just under $50,000. If you have your sights set on managing fine dining restaurants, expect a salary to top out at $76,940 per year.
Ready to Become a Restaurant Manager?
Want a 40-hour week, nine-to-five job, with weekends and holidays off? Restaurant management is probably not in your future. The work is hard and incredibly hectic. You’ll be meeting more people in one day than other professionals meet in months or even years. While the job of a restaurant manager is quite demanding, it offers personal and financial rewards for those willing to roll up their sleeves, shake a few hands, and provide excellent service.
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About the Author
Amber Mullaney led all things marketing for QSR. A proud Texan native, she graduated from the University of Houston with a degree in Public Relations and spent her career in the healthcare industry before making the switch to QSR and beyond, saying she loves a good challenge. Amber has a long list of things she loves, including tacos (especially tacos), sweet tea, Texas, the outdoors, and traveling with her husband and two daughters.