Food Service Managers (or Restaurant Managers) are individuals who coordinate the daily operations of restaurants and other establishments where food is prepared and served to customers. They are responsible for providing an enjoyable dining experience for customers while also ensuring that their establishment is run efficiently and smoothly. Managers provide oversight of the ordering of food, maintenance of equipment, and inventory of supplies. They coordinate the interactions between the kitchen, dining room, and banquet operations of their facility. They are usually responsible for much of the administrative end of the business as well, including employee recruitment, payroll preparation, and the keeping of accurate business records. In addition, managers have the responsibility of training their employees and continuously monitoring their work performance.
Depending on the type and size of the establishment, food service managers may team with one or more members of the food service staff. In most full-service restaurants, the management team consists of a General Manager, one or more Assistant Managers, and an Executive Chef. In this type of setting, the assistant managers are in charge of overseeing specific areas of the establishment (e.g., one provides oversight of the dining room, another of the banquet area, etc.), or of supervising different shifts of workers. The executive chef is usually responsible for all aspects of food preparation, including running the kitchen operations, planning the menus, and ensuring standards of quality are maintained. In smaller establishments (such as sandwich shops, coffee bars, or fast-food facilities) where there is no executive chef, duties are more consolidated and managers are generally responsible for supervising routine food preparation operations.
A typical day in the life of a food service manager might consist of the following tasks:
- Make a best estimate of food consumption
- Place orders with suppliers
- Schedule delivery of food and beverages
- Receive and check the content of deliveries
- Evaluate quality of the food
- Meet with sales representatives from restaurant suppliers to place orders replenishing stock of supplies
- Make arrangements for equipment maintenance and repair as needed
- Coordinate other services as needed (e.g., pest control, waste removal, etc.)
In addition to fulfilling his/her daily tasks, a food service manager has several other responsibilities. One of these is the staffing of quality food and beverage preparation and service workers. Managers are charged with the duty of interviewing, hiring, and, when necessary, firing employees in order to continuously maintain a quality staff. In order to obtain the highest quality personnel, managers must actively recruit. This means doing things like attending career fairs, getting to know who the best people are in the local industry, and arranging for newspaper or other forms of advertising. Every time a new employee is hired, the manager must oversee his/her training and make sure that the employee is fully cognizant of the establishment's policies and procedures. Managers are also responsible for scheduling the work hours of staff members, keeping in mind the number of workers needed to cover peak dining periods. In some cases, managers themselves may need to fill in when there are not enough workers available to cover a particular function.
Another basic responsibility of food service managers is the oversight of the preparation and delivery of meals to customers. Managers usually have ultimate responsibility for the quality of the cooking and the promptness of delivery. They typically investigate and resolve any complaints customers may have about food quality or service. They are also responsible for proper sanitation and, as such, they provide direction on the cleaning of the kitchen and dining areas and the washing of tableware and kitchen utensils. In addition, managers continually monitor the actions of their employees and patrons to ensure that health standards, safety standards, and local liquor regulations are adhered to.
One of the core responsibilities of food service managers is the selection of successful menu items. In some establishments, this function is shared between the manager and the executive chef. To make informed decisions, managers consider factors such as the historical popularity of certain dishes, the seasonal availability of certain ingredients, the current composition of the menu offerings, and last but certainly not least, cost.
Part of a food service manager's obligations fall under the general heading of administrative chores. Although many of these types of duties are performed by bookkeepers in larger establishments, they are relegated to food service managers in most other settings. Responsibilities in this area include maintaining records of supply and equipment purchases, making sure that accounts with suppliers are paid regularly, keeping track of hours worked and wages paid to each employee, preparing the payroll, and filling out and submitting all necessary paperwork to comply with licensing laws and legal reporting requirements. In many establishments, managers also maintain statistics of which menu items are popular enough to be cost-effective and which are not.
In today's environment, computers are an integral tool for food service managers. They are used extensively in record keeping and paperwork. Many restaurants today use Point-of-Service (POS) systems, where employees key in customer orders and the computer relays the order to the kitchen. The system also totals checks, authorizes credit cards, and keeps a cumulative tracking of daily sales. Many establishments supplement the POS systems with Inventory-Tracking Software, which compares the record of daily sales from the POS with a record of present inventory. When the software signals that supplies needed for the preparation of certain menu items are low, the computer can be used to order additional inventory directly from the supplier. Computers are also used by food service managers to track employee schedules and payments.
Food service managers tend to work long hours. 12-hour days and 50-hour weeks are not at all uncommon, and on many occasions those totals are exceeded. One exception to this rule is managers of institutional food service facilities (e.g., cafeterias in schools, factories, or office settings), whose work schedules tend to conform to the operating hours of the business or facility they serve. In many cases, these turn out to be standard 40-hour work weeks.
Managers usually wield a good deal of authority and generally have the freedom of running the operation in the way they see fit. However, the job can be very hectic and consequently, stressful as well. The pressures of juggling a wide range of activities and dealing with irate customers or uncooperative employees contribute to the stress. There is also the potential for the types of injury or discomfort commonly found in restaurant work, including muscle aches, burns, and cuts.
The characteristics that one needs to become a good food service manager are wide and varied. Managers need to be flexible and able to work calmly through emergencies. They must be good communicators, as a large part of their job involves dealing with customers, employees, and suppliers on a daily basis. They need to be good motivators as well as good leaders. They must maintain a neat and clean appearance and they must also be reliable. Other qualities that make up a good manager include problem-solving skills and the ability to concentrate on details.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics (USDL BLS), food service manager jobs are expected to grow over the upcoming decade, albeit at a slower overall rate than the average for all occupations. The rate of growth, however, will vary by industry. Employment growth will be strong in full-service restaurants, but not so much in limited-service establishments. Job growth is expected to be healthy in the food service contractor industry, which provides food for schools, health care facilities, commercial businesses, and nursing homes.
Chances of landing a job will always be greater for those who have practical experience. In general, job prospects at upscale restaurants will be strongest for candidates holding a degree in restaurant, hospitality or institutional food service management. The same is true for those seeking advancement within a restaurant chain or into corporate management.
Food Service and Restaurant Management Training, Certification, and Licensing
Educational requirements for food service managers vary by position. The most common way to enter the profession is via prior experience in the industry in some other capacity, typically as a cook, waiter/waitress, or counter attendant. For many positions, some level of postsecondary education is preferred; for others, it is not a significant qualification. Generally speaking, those who seek employment in higher end full-service restaurants or in a corporate position such as managing a regional or national restaurant chain should seek out a college degree. For any type of food service manager position, prior industry experience is a definite asset.
Literally hundreds of colleges and universities offer four-year degree programs in restaurant and hospitality management or institutional food service management. Many offer graduate degrees. There are also hundreds of community and junior colleges, technical institutes, and vocational schools offering associate degree or certificate programs in the field. Typical topics covered in these programs include nutrition, sanitation, and food planning and preparation. Also part of these programs are subjects such as business law and management, accounting, and computer science. Many programs include an internship component, where students are afforded the opportunity of acquiring on-the-job experience.
Most restaurant chains and food service management companies have their own training programs for management positions. These programs, which typically take six months to a year to complete, usually involve a combination of rigorous classroom and on-the-job training. Topics covered include food preparation, sanitation, nutrition, security, company policies and procedures, personnel management, record keeping, and report preparation. Many larger food service operations will offer their managers technical training in computers or business, in order to ensure that their managers have the skills necessary to fulfill all the business-related aspects of the job.
The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation awards a voluntary certification known as the Foodservice Management Professional (FMP) designation. This certification is awarded to managers who qualify in terms of work experience and coursework, and who pass a written examination. Although not a requirement for employment, the FMP is a valuable credential which provides recognition of professional competence in the field.
- National Restaurant Association
- The International Council on Hotel Restaurant and Institutional Education
- American Dietetic Association
- Food Service Equipment Distributors Association (FEDA)
- National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation
A little less than half of all food service managers are self-employed. Of these, most are restaurant owners or owners of some other type of food service establishment. The majority of managers who are salaried work for some type of restaurant: a full-service establishment, a fast-food restaurant, or a cafeteria. Others work for food service contractors (suppliers of food services to government, commercial, or educational institutions), hotels, hospitals, nursing care facilities, and recreational and gaming establishments.
Schools for Food Service Managers are listed in the column to the left.