Restaurant manager career spotlight

Restaurant Manager

Thrive Under Pressure as a Restaurant Manager.

Diners in a successful restaurant may never see or think about the restaurant manager. Customers often ask to speak to a manager if they have a complaint, but the bulk of a restaurant manager's duties involves behind-the-scenes administrative work. So what is a restaurant manager? In short, this is the person responsible for all the operational organization and planning necessary to keep the restaurant running smoothly. If you are interested in a managerial role in the hospitality or food and beverage industry, here's what you need to know.

What does a restaurant manager do?

Responsibilities

Depending on the restaurant, there may be one manager or there may be several who report to a general manager. Regardless of how the management team is structured, employees in restaurant manager positions may be responsible for some or all the following:

  • Conducting regular inventory counts of food and all other supplies, tracking actual usage against projections
  • Placing regular orders for food and other back-of-house supplies as well as front-of-house needs
  • Identifying and addressing causes of inventory discrepancies, such as unrecorded waste or theft
  • Managing payroll, accounts payable and receivable, and tracking costs against budgets (or managing accounting staff)
  • Managing employee life cycle, including recruitment, hiring, training, performance management, employee development, conflict resolution, and separation
  • Ensuring that all staff have the necessary training and licensure for food handling work, based on federal, state, and local requirements
  • Coordinating inspection and licensure of food and beverage facilities and equipment
  • Working with kitchen, bar, and service leads to plan regular and special event menus and service plans
  • Creating and maintaining front and back-of-house staff schedules
  • Resolving customer complaints and vendor issues as needed
  • Greeting and soliciting feedback from customers and staff to maintain smooth day-to-day operation
  • Serving as a team, department, or company leader, responsible for morale, communication, and group culture

In addition to these responsibilities, a restaurant manager must be ready to step into any role in the business, from cooking and serving to washing dishes, as needed.

Work Environment

Restaurants are high-pressure, fast-paced environments, so anyone interested in working as a restaurant manager must be comfortable in this setting. Staff is generally divided into two areas; front-of-house, which includes customer-facing positions such as hosts, bartenders, servers, and bussers, and back-of-house, which includes chefs and cooks, dishwashers, and other kitchen staff. Managers may be responsible for both areas or may be designated to a specific area, such as a bar manager.

Kitchens, in particular, have a reputation for being difficult places to work. Tempers often run high, especially when problems arise or during a difficult service. Employee turnover in the hospitality industry is quite high at 66.3 percent in 2014. Employees quitting account for 46.5 percent, 17.2 percent to layoffs and firings, with the remainder made up of other causes. As a result, managers spend a lot of time managing team dynamics as individual personalities and skill sets change.

Schedule

As a restaurant manager, your schedule will vary depending on which meals are served each day and how many managers are available to cover each shift. As in any service role, restaurant managers should expect to work frequent nights, weekends, and holidays. Managers also arrive early to oversee preparation for service and/or stay late to ensure all closing tasks are completed properly. It is a demanding schedule, and even high-level restaurant managers commonly work long hours with little time off.

What qualifications are required to be a restaurant manager?

Education

Most restaurant manager positions require a high school diploma at a minimum. There may be no additional educational requirements, depending on the specific position, though a degree in a related field may give you an edge in hiring. Some restaurant manager jobs call for candidates with either a two- or four-year degree. The most common degrees for people working in this position are:

  • Business administration/management
  • Culinary arts
  • Accounting
  • Hospitality administration/management

Some restaurants offer management internships to give practical education to those interested in this career path.

Experience

Job experience is highly prized for restaurant manager candidates. It is common for professionals in this job to have worked their way up through entry and mid-level restaurant jobs in lieu of more formal education. Because restaurant managers are responsible for so many aspects of business operation and may step into any role as needed, it is helpful to have at least some experience in several front and back-of-house roles.

You should expect to work for at least five to 10 years in the restaurant industry before being considered for a restaurant manager job. Only 17 percent of people in this position have fewer than five years of experience. On the other hand, 27 percent have between 6 and 10 years, 22 percent have 11 to 15 years, and 19 percent have been in the business for 16 to 20 years.

Skills

The specific skills required for a restaurant manager job vary. If you work for a relatively small restaurant with a single location, you may need a broad skill set, but be expected to operate at a relatively low volume. If you work for a national or multinational brand or organization, you may have a more narrowly defined area of focus, but have responsibilities across a larger scale.

Here are some of the skills typically found in a restaurant manager job description:

  • Software skills
    • Point-of-sale programs — Servers enter customer orders into a handheld or stationary computer; the order is then delivered to the kitchen.
    • Inventory management — These programs track the stock and purchase of supplies, measure against usage targets, and assist with cost analysis.
    • Accounting software — Restaurants may use general business accounting tools or industry-specific programs.
    • Social media — Managers may be responsible for a restaurant's Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and/or other social accounts and advertising campaigns.
    • Office applications — Managers should be familiar with basic email, word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation software, as well as popular web browsers such as Safari, Firefox, and Google Chrome.
  • Customer service — This includes assisting with customer issues and complaints, as well as interacting with vendors and third-party partners.
  • Sales and marketing — You may be responsible for managing marketing initiatives and/or coming up with ways to attract new business.
  • Retail management — Some restaurants have a retail component, selling branded clothing, food products, and other merchandise.
  • Staffing and human resources — Hiring, training, and managing employees is a significant part of a restaurant manager's job.
  • Financial management — Restaurants operate on narrow profit margins, and an estimated 60 percent of restaurants fail within their first year. Managers must have a thorough understanding of how to manage a restaurant's finances to ensure its success.
  • Leadership — Managers play a key role in developing a positive team culture and employee morale, which are critical to delivering excellent service.
  • Food safety — While state and local laws vary, restaurant managers should be certified, so they can ensure that all kitchen and service staff work in accordance with food safety standards.
  • Organization — Managers must have excellent attention to detail and the ability to multitask and stay organized.
  • Communication — In such a high-pressure environment, clear communication is essential. Being multi-lingual is highly desired by employers, as restaurant staff is often comprised of people from diverse backgrounds.

Salary expectations

So how much do restaurant managers make in exchange for that skill set? The average salary for this position is $52,342. However, how much you earn depends largely on the city you work in. Competitive markets with busy restaurant scenes, such as New York, Chicago, and Dallas, are more likely to offer salaries at the higher end of the spectrum.

Restaurant managers may also be eligible for bonuses and often receive health, retirement, and other benefits associated with full-time employment.

For more info on how much you can expect ot make as a restaurant manger, check out these insights.

Job outlook for restaurant managers

Projected growth

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment for food service managers will grow at a rate of about five percent between 2014 and 2024, which is two percent slower than the average growth for all industries. This relatively slow growth rate is due to improved efficiency in the industry and to the low success rate of new restaurants. For this reason, restaurant managers are likely to be recruited from within the industry, and candidates with a degree may have an edge.

Career trajectory

When restaurant managers are ready to change jobs, they may go in one of several directions. Those working for large companies or franchises may have the opportunity to advance to regional or corporate positions. Some feel the next logical step is to open their own restaurant. Others may simply choose to move to a similar position in a new restaurant.

Whatever your path, it is important to understand that changing jobs in this career often means relocating. It is a competitive field, so when a prestigious opportunity arises, candidates are likely to express interest from all over the country, and even all over the world.

A career in restaurant management is a good choice for people who love food, enjoy a fast-paced, high-pressure work environment, and love the thought of facing new challenges every day.