Experience as food and beverage preparation and service workers
is essential for promotion into managerial positions, however,
applicants with a college degree in restaurant and institutional
food service management should have the best job opportunities.
Many new food service manager jobs will arise in the food
services and drinking places industry as the number of establishments
increases along with the population.
Job opportunities for salaried food service managers should
be better than for self-employed managers because more restaurant
managers will be employed by regional or national restaurant
chains to run their establishments.
Nature of the Work
Food service managers are responsible for the daily operations
of restaurants and other establishments that prepare and serve
meals and beverages to customers. Besides coordinating activities
among various departments, such as kitchen, dining room, and banquet
operations, food service managers ensure that customers are satisfied
with their dining experience. In addition, they oversee the inventory
and ordering of food, equipment, and supplies and arrange for
the routine maintenance and upkeep of the restaurant, its equipment,
and facilities. Managers generally are responsible for all of
the administrative and human-resource functions of running the
business, including recruiting new employees and monitoring employee
performance and training.
In most full-service restaurants and institutional food service
facilities, the management team consists of a general manager,
one or more assistant managers, and an executive chef.
The executive chef is responsible for all food preparation activities,
including running kitchen operations, planning menus, and maintaining
quality standards for food service. In limited-service eating
places, such as sandwich shops, coffee bars, or fast-food establishments,
managers, not executive chefs, are responsible for supervising
routine food preparation operations. Assistant managers in full-service
facilities generally oversee service in the dining rooms and banquet
areas. In larger restaurants and fast-food or other food service
facilities that serve meals daily and maintain longer hours, individual
assistant managers may supervise different shifts of workers.
In smaller restaurants, formal titles may be less important, and
one person may undertake the work of one or more food service
positions. For example, the executive chef also may be the general
manager or even sometimes an owner. (For additional information
on these other workers, see material on top
executives and chefs, cooks, and food preparation
workers elsewhere in the Handbook.)
One of the most important tasks of food service managers is assisting
executive chefs as they select successful menu items. This task
varies by establishment depending on the seasonality of menu items,
the frequency with which restaurants change their menus, and the
introduction of daily or weekly specials. Many restaurants rarely
change their menus while others make frequent alterations. Managers
or executive chefs select menu items, taking into account the
likely number of customers and the past popularity of dishes.
Other issues considered when planning a menu include whether there
was any unserved food left over from prior meals that should not
be wasted, the need for variety, and the seasonal availability
of foods. Managers or executive chefs analyze the recipes of the
dishes to determine food, labor, and overhead costs and to assign
prices to various dishes. Menus must be developed far enough in
advance that supplies can be ordered and received in time.
Managers or executive chefs estimate food needs, place orders
with distributors, and schedule the delivery of fresh food and
supplies. They plan for routine services or deliveries, such as
linen services or the heavy cleaning of dining rooms or kitchen
equipment, to occur during slow times or when the dining room
is closed. Managers also arrange for equipment maintenance and
repairs, and coordinate a variety of services such as waste removal
and pest control. Managers or executive chefs receive deliveries
and check the contents against order records. They inspect the
quality of fresh meats, poultry, fish, fruits, vegetables, and
baked goods to ensure that expectations are met. They meet with
representatives from restaurant supply companies and place orders
to replenish stocks of tableware, linens, paper products, cleaning
supplies, cooking utensils, and furniture and fixtures.
Managers must be good communicators. They need to speak well,
often in several languages, with a diverse clientele and staff.
They must motivate employees to work as a team, to ensure that
food and service meet appropriate standards. Managers also must
ensure that written supply orders are clear and unambiguous.
Managers interview, hire, train, and, when necessary, fire employees.
Retaining good employees is a major challenge facing food service
managers. Managers recruit employees at career fairs, contact
schools that offer academic programs in hospitality or culinary
arts, and arrange for newspaper advertising to attract additional
applicants. Managers oversee the training of new employees and
explain the establishment’s policies and practices. They schedule
work hours, making sure that enough workers are present to cover
each shift. If employees are unable to work, managers may have
to call in alternates to cover for them or fill in themselves
when needed. Some managers may help with cooking, clearing tables,
or other tasks when the restaurant becomes extremely busy.
Food service managers ensure that diners are served properly
and in a timely manner. They investigate and resolve customers’
complaints about food quality or service. They monitor orders
in the kitchen to determine where backups may occur, and they
work with the chef to remedy any delays in service. Managers direct
the cleaning of the dining areas and the washing of tableware,
kitchen utensils, and equipment to comply with company and government
sanitation standards. Managers also monitor the actions of their
employees and patrons on a continual basis to ensure the personal
safety of everyone. They make sure that health and safety standards
and local liquor regulations are obeyed.
In addition to their regular duties, food service managers perform
a variety of administrative assignments, such as keeping employee
work records, preparing the payroll, and completing paperwork
to comply with licensing laws and reporting requirements of tax,
wage and hour, unemployment compensation, and Social Security
laws. Some of this work may be delegated to an assistant manager
or bookkeeper, or it may be contracted out, but most general managers
retain responsibility for the accuracy of business records. Managers
also maintain records of supply and equipment purchases and ensure
that accounts with suppliers are paid.
Technology influences the jobs of food service managers in many
ways, enhancing efficiency and productivity. Many restaurants
use computers to track orders, inventory, and the seating of patrons.
Point-of-service (POS) systems allow servers to key in a customer’s
order, either at the table, using a hand-held device, or from
a computer terminal in the dining room, and send the order to
the kitchen instantaneously so preparation can begin. The same
system totals and prints checks, functions as a cash register,
connects to credit card authorizers, and tracks sales. To minimize
food costs and spoilage, many managers use inventory-tracking
software to compare the record of sales from the POS with a record
of the current inventory. Some establishments enter an inventory
of standard ingredients and suppliers into their POS system. When
supplies of particular ingredients run low, they can be ordered
directly from the supplier using preprogrammed information. Computers
also allow restaurant and food service managers to keep track
of employee schedules and paychecks more efficiently.
Food service managers use the Internet to track industry news,
find recipes, conduct market research, purchase supplies or equipment,
recruit employees, and train staff. Internet access also makes
service to customers more efficient. Many restaurants maintain
Web sites that include menus and online promotions, provide information
about the restaurant’s location, and offer patrons the option
to make a reservation.
Managers tally the cash and charge receipts received and balance
them against the record of sales. They are responsible for depositing
the day’s receipts at the bank or securing them in a safe place.
Finally, managers are responsible for locking up the establishment,
checking that ovens, grills, and lights are off, and switching
on alarm systems.
Food service managers are among the first to arrive in the morning
and the last to leave at night. Long hours—12 to 15 per day, 50
or more per week, and sometimes 7 days a week—are common. Managers
of institutional food service facilities, such as school, factory,
or office cafeterias, work more regular hours because the operating
hours of these establishments usually conform to the operating
hours of the business or facility they serve. However, hours for
many managers are unpredictable.
Managers should be calm, flexible, and able to work through emergencies,
such as a fire or flood, in order to ensure everyone’s safety.
Managers also should be able to fill in for absent workers on
short notice. Managers often experience the pressures of simultaneously
coordinating a wide range of activities. When problems occur,
it is the manager’s responsibility to resolve them with minimal
disruption to customers. The job can be hectic, and dealing with
irate customers or uncooperative employees can be stressful.
Managers also may experience the typical minor injuries of other
restaurant workers, such as muscle aches, cuts, or burns. They
might endure physical discomfort from moving tables or chairs
to accommodate large parties, receiving and storing daily supplies
from vendors, or making minor repairs to furniture or equipment.
Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement
Experience in the food services industry, whether as a full-time
waiter or waitress or as a part-time or seasonal counter attendant,
is essential training for a food services manger. Many food service
management companies and national or regional restaurant chains
recruit management trainees from 2- and 4-year college hospitality
management programs which require internships and real-life experience
to graduate. Some restaurant chains prefer to hire people with
degrees in restaurant and institutional food service management,
but they often hire graduates with degrees in other fields who
have demonstrated experience, interest and aptitude. Many restaurant
and food service manager positions—particularly self-service and
fast-food—are filled by promoting experienced food and beverage
preparation and service workers. Waiters, waitresses, chefs, and
fast-food workers demonstrating potential for handling increased
responsibility sometimes advance to assistant manager or management
trainee jobs. Executive chefs need extensive experience working
as chefs, and general managers need prior restaurant experience,
usually as assistant managers.
A bachelor’s degree in restaurant and food service management
provides particularly strong preparation for a career in this
occupation. Almost 1,000 colleges and universities offer 4-year
programs in restaurant and hospitality management or institutional
food service management; a growing number of university programs
offer graduate degrees in hospitality management or similar fields.
For those not interested in pursuing a 4-year degree, community
and junior colleges, technical institutes, and other institutions
offer programs in the field leading to an associate degree or
other formal certification. Both 2- and 4-year programs provide
instruction in subjects such as nutrition, sanitation, and food
planning and preparation, as well as accounting, business law
and management, and computer science. Some programs combine classroom
and laboratory study with internships providing on-the-job experience.
In addition, many educational institutions offer culinary programs
in food preparation. Such training can lead to a career as a cook
or chef and provide a foundation for advancement to an executive
chef position. Many larger food service operations will provide,
or offer to pay for, technical training, such as computer or business
courses, so that employees can acquire the business skills necessary
to read a spreadsheet or understand the concepts and practices
of running a business. Generally, this requires a long-term commitment
on the employee’s part to both the employer and to the profession.
Most restaurant chains and food service management companies
have rigorous training programs for management positions. Through
a combination of classroom and on-the-job training, trainees receive
instruction and gain work experience in all aspects of the operation
of a restaurant or institutional food service facility. Areas
include food preparation, nutrition, sanitation, security, company
policies and procedures, personnel management, recordkeeping,
and preparation of reports. Training on use of the restaurant’s
computer system is increasingly important as well. Usually, after
6 months or a year, trainees receive their first permanent assignment
as an assistant manager.
Most employers emphasize personal qualities when hiring managers.
For example, self-discipline, initiative, and leadership ability
are essential. Managers must be able to solve problems and concentrate
on details. They need good communication skills to deal with customers
and suppliers, as well as to motivate and direct their staff.
A neat and clean appearance is important, because managers must
convey self-confidence and show respect in dealing with the public.
Becasuse food service management can be physically demanding,
good health and stamina are important.
The certified Foodservice Management Professional (FMP) designation
is a measure of professional achievement for food service managers.
Although not a requirement for employment or advancement in the
occupation, voluntary certification provides recognition of professional
competence, particularly for managers who acquired their skills
largely on the job. The National Restaurant Association Educational
Foundation awards the FMP designation to managers who achieve
a qualifying score on a written examination, complete a series
of courses that cover a range of food service management topics,
and meet standards of work experience in the field.
Willingness to relocate often is essential for advancement to
positions with greater responsibility. Managers typically advance
to larger establishments or regional management positions within
restaurant chains. Some eventually open their own food service
Food service managers held about 371,000 jobs in 2004. Most managers
were salaried, but more than 40 per cent were self-employed in
independent restaurants or other small food service establishments.
About 70 percent of all salaried jobs for food service managers
were in full-service restaurants or limited-service eating places,
such as fast-food restaurants and cafeterias. Other salaried jobs
were in drinking places (alcoholic beverages) and in special food
services—an industry that includes food service contractors who
supply food services at institutional, governmental, commercial,
or industrial locations. A small number of salaried jobs were
in traveler accommodation (hotels); educational services; amusement,
gambling, and recreation industries; nursing care facilities;
and hospitals. Jobs are located throughout the country, with large
cities and tourist areas providing more opportunities for full-service
Employment of food service managers is expected to grow about
as fast as average for all occupations through 2014. In addition
to job openings arising out of employment growth, the need to
replace managers who transfer to other occupations or stop working
will create many job opportunities. Although practical experience
is an integral part of finding a food service management position,
applicants with a degree in restaurant, hospitality or institutional
food service management will have an edge; those with higher-level
degrees should have the best opportunities.
Projected employment growth varies by industry. Most new jobs
will arise in full-service restaurants and limited-service eating
places as the number of these establishments increase along with
the population. Manager jobs in special food services, an industry
that includes food service contractors, will increase as hotels,
schools, healthcare facilities, and other businesses contract
out their food services to firms in this industry. Food service
manager jobs still are expected to increase in hotels, schools,
and health-care facilities, but growth will be slowed as contracting
out becomes more common.
Job opportunities should be better for salaried managers than
for self-employed managers. More new restaurants are affiliated
with national or regional chains than are independently owned
and operated. As this trend continues, fewer owners will manage
restaurants themselves, and more restaurant managers will be employed
by larger companies to run individual establishments.
Median annual earnings of salaried food service managers were
$39,610 in May 2004. The middle 50 percent earned between $31,010
and $51,460. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $24,500, and
the highest 10 percent earned more than $68,860. Median annual
earnings in the industries employing the largest numbers of food
service managers in May 2004 were as follows:
Special food services
Limited-service eating places
Elementary and secondary schools
In addition to receiving typical benefits, most salaried food
service managers are provided free meals and the opportunity for
additional training, depending on their length of service. Some
food service managers, especially those in full-service restaurants,
may earn bonuses depending on sales volume or revenue.
Food service managers direct the activities of a hospitality-industry
business and provide a service to customers. Other managers and
supervisors in hospitality-oriented businesses include gaming
managers, lodging managers, sales worker supervisors, and first-line
supervisors or managers of food preparation and serving workers.
Sources of Additional Information
Information about a career as a food service manager, 2- and
4-year college programs in restaurant and food service management,
and certification as a Foodservice Management Professional is
National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation, 175
West Jackson Blvd., Suite 1500, Chicago, IL 60604-2702. Internet:
General information on hospitality careers may be obtained from:
The International Council on Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional
Education, 2613 North Parham Rd., 2nd Floor, Richmond, VA 23294.
Additional information about job opportunities in food service
management may be obtained from local employers and from local
offices of State employment services agencies.
Source: Bureau of Labor
Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook
Handbook, 2006-07 Edition