Restaurant and Food Service Manager Career

Restaurant and food service managers are responsible for the overall operation of businesses that serve food. Food service work includes the purchasing of a variety of food, selection of the menu, preparation of the food, and, most importantly, maintenance of health and sanitation levels. It is the responsibility of managers to oversee staffing for each task in addition to performing the business and accounting functions of restaurant operations. There are approximately 371,000 food service managers employed in the United States.

History of Restaurant and Food Service Manager Career

Restaurant and Food Service Manager CareerThe word restaurant comes from the French word restaurer, meaning “to restore.” It is believed that the term was first used in its present sense in the 18th century by a soup vendor in Paris, who offered his customers a choice of soups, or restoratives (restaurants). The first restaurants in the United States were patterned after European restaurants and coffeehouses. During the 20th century, many innovations in the restaurant industry led to the development of new kinds of eating establishments, including the cafeteria, Automat, counter-service restaurant, drive-in, and fast food chain.

The Job of Restaurant and Food Service Managers

Restaurant and food service managers work in restaurants ranging from elegant hotel dining rooms to fast food restaurants. They also may work in food service facilities ranging from school cafeterias to hospital food services. Whatever the setting, these managers coordinate and direct the work of the employees who prepare and serve food and perform other related functions. Restaurant managers set work schedules for wait staff and host staff. Food service managers are responsible for buying the food and equipment necessary for the operation of the restaurant or facility, and they may help with menu planning. They inspect the premises periodically to ensure compliance with health and sanitation regulations. Restaurant and food service managers perform many clerical and financial duties, such as keeping records, directing payroll operations, handling large sums of money, and taking inventories. Their work usually involves much contact with customers and vendors, such as taking suggestions, handling complaints, and creating a friendly atmosphere. Restaurant managers generally supervise any advertising or sales promotions for their operations.

In some very large restaurants and institutional food service facilities, one or more assistant managers and an executive chef or food manager assist the manager. These specially trained assistants oversee service in the dining room and other areas of the operation and supervise the kitchen staff and preparation of all foods served.

Restaurant and food service managers are responsible for the success of their establishments. They continually analyze every aspect of its operation and make whatever changes are needed to guarantee its profitability.

These duties are common, in varying degrees, to both owner-managers of relatively small restaurants and to nonowner-managers who may be salaried employees in large restaurants or institutional food service facilities. The owner-manager of a restaurant is more likely to be involved in service functions, sometimes operating the cash register, waiting on tables, and performing a wide variety of tasks.

Restaurant and Food Service Manager Career Requirements

Educational requirements for restaurant and food service managers vary greatly. In many cases, no specific requirements exist and managerial positions are filled by promoting experienced food and beverage preparation and service workers. However, as more colleges offer programs in restaurant and institutional food service management— programs that combine academic work with on-the-job experience—more restaurant and food service chains are seeking individuals with this training.

Postsecondary Training

Many colleges and universities offer four-year programs leading to a bachelor’s degree in restaurant and hotel management or institutional food service management. Some individuals qualify for management training by earning an associate’s degree or other formal award below the bachelor’s degree level from one of the more than 800 community and junior colleges, technical institutes, or other institutions that offer programs in these fields. Students hired as management trainees by restaurant chains and food service management companies undergo vigorous training programs.

Certification or Licensing

The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation offers a voluntary food service management professional certification to restaurant and food service managers.

Other Requirements

Experience in all areas of restaurant and food service work is an important requirement for successful managers. Managers must be familiar with the various operations of the establishment: food preparation, service operations, sanitary regulations, and financial functions.

One of the most important requirements for restaurant and food service managers is to have good business knowledge. They must possess a high degree of technical knowledge in handling business details, such as buying large items of machinery and equipment and large quantities of food. Desirable personality characteristics include poise, self-confidence, and an ability to get along with people. Managers may be on their feet for long periods, and the hours of work may be both long and irregular.


Practical restaurant and food service experience is usually easy to get. In colleges with curriculum offerings in these areas, summer jobs in all phases of the work are available and, in some cases, required. Some restaurant and food service chains provide on-the-job training in management.


Restaurants and food service make up one of the largest and most active sectors of the nation’s economy. Employers include restaurants of various sizes, hotel dining rooms, ships, trains, institutional food service facilities, and many other establishments where food is served. No matter the size or style of the establishment, managers are needed to oversee the operation and to ensure that records are kept, goals are met, and things run smoothly.

Starting Out

Many restaurants and food service facilities provide self-sponsored, on-the-job training for prospective managers. There are still cases in which people work hard and move up the ladder within the organization’s workforce, finally arriving at the managerial position. More and more, people with advanced education and specialized training move directly into manager-trainee positions and then on to managerial positions.


In large restaurants and food service organizations, promotion opportunities frequently arise for employees with knowledge of the overall operation. Experience in all aspects of the work is an important consideration for the food service employee who desires advancement. The employee with knowledge of kitchen operations may advance from pantry supervisor to food manager, assistant manager, and finally restaurant or food service manager. Similar advancement is possible for dining room workers with knowledge of kitchen operations.

Advancement to top executive positions is possible for managers employed by large restaurant and institutional food service chains. A good educational background and some specialized training are increasingly valuable assets to employees who hope to advance.


The earnings of salaried restaurant and food service managers vary a great deal, depending on the type and size of the establishment. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook, median annual earnings of food service managers were $39,610 in 2004. The lowest paid 10 percent earned less than $24,500, and the highest paid 10 percent earned more than $68,860. Those in charge of the largest restaurants and institutional food service facilities often earn more than $70,000. Managers of fast food restaurants average about $25,000 per year. In addition to a base salary, most managers receive bonuses based on profits, which can range from $2,000 to $7,500 a year.

Work Environment

Work environments are usually pleasant. There is usually a great deal of activity involved in preparing and serving food to large numbers of people, and managers usually work 40 to 48 hours per week. In some cafeterias, especially those located within an industry or business establishment, hours are regular, and little evening work is required. Many restaurants serve late dinners, however, necessitating the manager to remain on duty during a late-evening work period.

Many restaurants furnish meals to employees during their work hours. Annual bonuses, group-plan pensions, hospitalization, medical, and other benefits may be offered to restaurant managers.

Restaurant and Food Service Manager Career Outlook

Employment for well-qualified restaurant and food service managers will grow as fast as the average through 2014, especially for those with bachelor’s or associate’s degrees. New restaurants are always opening to meet increasing demand. It has been estimated that at least 44 percent of all of the food consumed in the United States is eaten in restaurants and hotels.

Many job openings will arise from the need to replace managers retiring from the workforce. Also, population growth will result in an increased demand for eating establishments and, in turn, a need for managers to oversee them. As the elderly population increases, managers will be needed to staff dining rooms located in hospitals and nursing homes.

Economic downswings have a great effect on eating and drinking establishments. During a recession, people have less money to spend on luxuries such as dining out, thus hurting the restaurant business. However, greater numbers of working parents and their families are finding it convenient to eat out or purchase carryout food from a restaurant.

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