Is a Career in Restaurant Management Right for You?

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manager-meetingManaging a restaurant can be exciting and fast-paced and is the ideal next step for someone who enjoys working in the food industry. As of 2014, the average restaurant manager made $48,560/per year, or about $23.34 per hour. Employment opportunities for food service managers is expected to grow by 5 percent between 2014-2024.

What They Do

A restaurant manager manages a team of cooks, servers, hostesses and possibly bartenders. He or she is responsible for:

  • Consulting with chef to plan meals and new dishes
  • Ordering supplies
  • Making sure equipment is maintained and prepared
  • Making sure the restaurant meets health department standards and is safe for both patrons and workers
  • Developing marketing plans
  • Hiring, training and managing staff
  • Ensuring customers are satisfied with their dining experiences
  • Managing payroll
  • Completing paperwork

This job is a good fit for someone who is highly organized, can handle stress with calmness and is able to juggle multiple tasks at one time.


Salary in the industry can vary widely by the fields within the industry, location of the restaurant and the experience of the manager. For example, on the lower end of the pay scale, some managers make as little as $30,000 a year, while others make $54,000 a year. Some managers also have the opportunity to earn more through bonuses, commissions and profit sharing.

Location impacts salary as well. Illinois has an annual mean wage of $52,950 a year. The states with the highest wages and most job opportunities in food service management, in addition to Illinois, include:

  • California
  • Texas
  • Ohio
  • Tennessee
  • New York
  • New Jersey
  • Rhode Island
  • Virginia
  • Nevada

Education/Training Level Needed

Training can vary depending on the type of restaurant. For example, a casual dining restaurant may only require a high school diploma with some on-the-job training, while working in a fine dining establishment may require a certificate, associate’s degree or even a bachelor’s in culinary arts.

In addition, some culinary schools are so well known for producing excellent chefs and providing internship opportunities that graduates from those institutions are sought after. Some of the top schools include:

  • Culinary Institute of America, St. Helena, California
  • Langlois Culinary Crossroads, New Orleans, Louisiana
  • International Culinary Center, New York, New York
  • Le Cordon Bleu, Multiple Locations (Tokyo, Paris, Lima)

There are other very well-respected programs. When choosing a culinary training program, pay attention to graduates, where they are working and if the school offers a placement program after graduation.

Important Aspects of the Job

As with any job, there are both positives and negatives to being a restaurant manager. Positives include:

  • Variety of tasks that prevent boredom
  • Opportunity to work with and serve people
  • Prospect of moving up the chain of command quickly
  • Ability to train young people and give them their first job
  • Management training that can apply to other management careers

Some of the negative aspects of a career in restaurant management include:

  • Long hours that can run 50-80 hours a week
  • High stress
  • Possibility of dealing with irate customers
  • Employee turnover and having to constantly hire and train new employees

Working as a restaurant manager requires the ability to have a positive attitude and high energy even when you’re exhausted and have various stressful situations thrown at you at once.

Understanding and Controlling Food Costs

Food cost is the percentage of overall sales that are spent on food. It is vital that a restaurant manager control food costs to keep a restaurant profitable. The formula for determining the net cost is food purchased divided by the net food sales. There are different percentages depending on the type of restaurant, but for example, in fine dining, the cost for food should be kept at 30% or under.

Some of the things a restaurant manager needs to monitor to control food costs include:

  • Wasted food if a dish is burned and must be thrown out or is returned to the kitchen because of a mistake
  • Food ordered online as inventory must be tracked accurately
  • Over-ordered or spoiled food
  • Under-ordered food or popular dishes that have run out

It is vital that a restaurant manager completely understand all aspects of food costs, point of sale purchases and orders to be successful in the restaurant management industry.

Different Fields Within Industry

Once you’ve decided on a career in the restaurant industry, there are some other decisions you’ll need to make. Within the industry, you’ll want to decide the type of restaurant you’d like to manage:

  • Fast food
  • Casual dining
  • Tavern or bar setting with food
  • Fine dining

There are also different types of management positions, particularly within larger restaurants. For example:

  • Front-of-house manager
  • Back-of-house manager

For example, in a large restaurant, you might have a general manager who oversees everything, shift managers and assistant managers. An establishment that runs 24 hours a day will require several people for each of these positions and may employ a front-of-house manager who handles the servers and customers and a back-of-house manager who handles the kitchen area.

Restaurant management offers a good career for those who love to work with the public and enjoy the food industry. Although the hours are long, the work is rewarding and the pay is decent.

About the Author

Sarah Landrum

Sarah Landrum is a freelance writer, blogger, and aspiring world traveler. Sarah is also the founder of Punched Clocks, a site on which she shares advice for young professionals on navigating the work world, and finding happiness and success at work. For more on all things career follow her @SarahLandrum

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