How to Become a Food Service Manager
Many food service managerial programs include culinary courses in food preparation and food safety.
Most applicants qualify with a high school diploma and long-term work experience in the food service industry as a cook, waiter or waitress, or counter attendant. However, some receive training at a community college, technical or vocational school, culinary school, or at a 4-year college.
Although a bachelor’s degree is not required, some postsecondary education is increasingly preferred for many manager positions, especially at upscale restaurants and hotels. Some food service companies and national or regional restaurant chains recruit management trainees from college hospitality or food service management programs, which require internships and real-life experience to graduate.
Many colleges and universities offer bachelor’s degree programs in restaurant and hospitality management or institutional food service management. In addition, numerous community and junior colleges, technical institutes, and other institutions offer programs in the field leading to an associate’s degree. Some culinary schools offer programs in restaurant management with courses designed for those who want to start and run their own restaurant.
Regardless of length, nearly all programs provide instruction in nutrition, sanitation, and food planning and preparation, as well as courses in accounting, business law, and management. Some programs combine classroom and practical study with internships.
Work Experience in a Related Occupation
Most food service managers start working in industry-related jobs, such as cooks, waiters and waitresses, or dining room attendants. They often spend years working under the direction of an experienced worker, learning the necessary skills before they are promoted to manager positions.
Managers who work for restaurant chains and food service management companies may undergo programs that combine classroom instruction and on-the-job training. Topics may include food preparation, nutrition, sanitation, security, company policies, personnel management, and recordkeeping. Some include training on the use of the restaurant’s computer system.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Although not required, voluntary certification shows professional competence, particularly for managers who learned their skills on the job. The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation awards the Foodservice Management Professional designation to managers who meet several criteria, including passing a written exam, completing coursework, and meeting experience requirements.
Business skills. Food service managers, especially those who run their own restaurant, must understand all aspects of the restaurant business. They should know how to budget for supplies, set prices, and manage workers to ensure that the restaurant is profitable.
Customer-service skills. Food service managers must be courteous and attentive when dealing with patrons. Satisfying customers’ dining needs is critical for success and ensures customer loyalty.
Detail oriented. Managers deal with many different types of activities. They interact with suppliers, workers, and customers; they make sure there is enough food to serve to customers; they take care of financial records; and they ensure health and food safety.
Leadership skills. Managers must establish good working relationships to ensure a productive work environment. This may involve motivating workers, resolving conflicts, or actively listening to complaints or criticism from customers.
Organizational skills. Food service managers keep track of many different schedules, budgets, and people. This becomes more complex as the size of the restaurant or food service facility increases.
Physical stamina. Food service managers, especially managers working in small establishments or those who run their own business, often work long hours and sometimes spend entire evenings on their feet helping to serve customers.
Problem-solving skills. The ability to resolve personnel issues and customer-related problems is imperative to the work of managers.
Speaking skills. Food service managers must give clear orders to staff and be able to explain information to employees and customers.