Serving Up fresh food as a restaurant manager

Insider advice from a restaurant manager

Now that you work behind the scenes as a restaurant manager, you have an entirely different perspective than you did as a patron. Restaurants look much different in the back of the house than they do in the dining room, and you're responsible for making sure that everything that does go on in the front of the house ensures customer satisfaction. Matteo, a five-year veteran of the industry, shares some insights and advice for restaurant managers who want to make the most of their careers.

What Is a Restaurant Manager?

Every restaurant relies on its employees to function properly. A restaurant manager oversees the rest of the employees and makes sure that the venue runs properly. According to Matteo, he or she is responsible for "the total profitable operations" of the venue, from inventory and supply ordering to customer care and employee scheduling.

Also called general managers, restaurant managers often work directly with the restaurant chef to prepare the menu and ensure customer satisfaction. He or she often reports to a district manager, who oversees several restaurants in a specific geographic region. If the region is a single establishment instead of a chain, the manager reports to the owner.

What Does a Restaurant Manager Do?

Restaurant managers work indoors, according to Matteo, and are expected to dress professionally. Some restaurants ask the managers to wear specific uniforms, while others request business casual dress. Matteo reports that his job consists of "40 percent office administration; 20 percent team development, hiring, coaching, [and] accountability; [and] 40 percent on the restaurant floor with the public."

Matteo comments favorably on his schedule, noting that "shifts are flexible," but says that restaurant managers should expect to work "five days a week with a combination of nights, days and weekends." On average, Matteo works 50 hours per week, but you might work more or fewer hours depending on the demand. For instance, restaurants with assistant managers and kitchen managers often let general managers take more time off, with the other supervisory employees picking up the slack.

On the office administration side, you are likely to spend your time completing payroll, ordering food and supplies, writing employee schedules, consulting with your supervisor, and researching new vendors. When you're on the floor, you might serve food to pick up wait staff slack, ask customers about their experience, greet customers at the door, and otherwise support your subordinates.

Restaurant managers must also keep their venues properly staffed. Not only do you have to interview and hire employees, but you must also train them. Consequently, you need to know everyone else's job as well as your own. This is why many restaurant managers start out as waiters, hosts, bartenders, or cooks.

How Can a Restaurant Manager Move Up?

Matteo says, "I have been a mentor for several young associates and I have been able to promote a few dozen. If possible, I would always recommend a mentorship." If you team up with an industry veteran, you'll learn the ropes faster and perhaps solidify a promotion for yourself.

After you've worked as a restaurant manager for several years, you might get promoted to regional or district management. Other opportunities exist in the corporate headquarters of chain restaurants if you want to move out of the actual venue and into more of a business setting.

To move up, you'll need to show you can manage your restaurant effectively. This means turning a healthy profit, keeping expenses in check, and maintaining customer satisfaction. If you get results, your supervisors will notice you.

What Are the Rewards and Challenges of Managing a Restaurant?

Matteo calls "the pay" and "my team" the most rewarding aspects of this career. Working closely with your employees can lead to tremendous satisfaction because you work together to achieve common goals. Additionally, restaurant managers earn more than most other workers in this industry, so even though they might work more hours, they enjoy better financial stability.

According to Matteo, "training the team to understand why you love the business and why it's important to me" represents the greatest challenge. It's one thing to feel passionate about your job, but quite another to instill that passion in others. If you can help your staff take ownership of their roles and fully devote themselves to customer satisfaction, your restaurant has a very good chance of becoming more profitable.

Do You Need Special Education to Succeed as a Restaurant Manager?

Matteo has a bachelor's degree, though you don't need one to become a restaurant manager. As mentioned above, many professionals in this career start in lower positions and work their way up. Experience can substitute for formal education.

However, you might need certifications, such as ServSafe, to keep your job. Updating your credentials will allow you to continue working in this industry. Plus, certifications help you keep yourself, your workers, and your customers safe.

If you decide to get a bachelor's or master's degree, you might move up faster. Your superiors will recognize your education and consider you for promotions as they arise.

How Much Do Restaurant Managers Make?

The national median salary for restaurant managers hovers around $47,000 per year. You can earn significantly more money if you live in a city with a high cost of living, such as New York City or Chicago, where median salaries increase to more than $50,000. Additionally, your salary can increase with experience and education.

Restaurant managers often earn extra money on top of their salaries. If your venue hits certain benchmarks, such as profit margins and expense mitigation, you can increase your monthly, quarterly, or annual bonus. While some restaurants don't give bonuses to management, most do.

If you want to increase your salary potential, consider working at higher-end restaurants. They typically pay more, and you'll work with professionals who earn better tips.

Restaurant managers such as Matteo keep the hospitality industry running. As long as you fulfill the requirements of your restaurant manager job description, you can increase your income and earn promotions. Alternatively, if you love this career, you can make a lateral move to a different restaurant.