How to Become a Restaurant Manager

The life of a restaurant manager is different every day. Learn how to start on this path, the types of management jobs, and the skills you’ll need to get there.

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June 16, 2021 11 min read

Are you thinking ahead?

Not to next month, or next year, but three to five years down the line?

If so, good for you!

When you know where you want to end up, you can create a plan that will get you there. And if becoming a restaurant manager is a part of that plan, you’re in the right place. We’re sharing the key skills you’ll need to acquire to reach that goal, and where you can learn them.

Where to Start?

Restaurant Experience is Key

Whether you have a Culinary Arts or Hospitality & Restaurant Operations Management education or not, you’ll have to start at the beginning.

Nine out of ten restaurant managers started in entry-level positions. Industry experience is important for learning the ropes around a restaurant, but it’s also key in helping you to later understand and empathize with your employees. You’ll be more likely to see things from the host or dishwasher’s point of view if you’ve done those jobs yourself.

The Importance Of Resumes For Restaurant Managers

Back in the day, restaurant hopefuls visited restaurants in person to hand out resumes. In fact, some still do! Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts graduate Shane Witters Hicks got two job offers on his first day of handing out resumes!

Shane Witters Hicks, Escoffier Boulder Graduate“I knew that if I was going to go to culinary school, I wanted to get some solid industry experience before I went.”
Shane Witters Hicks, Escoffier Boulder Graduate & Private Chef/Educator, The Soulful Spread

But these days, most job hunting is done online. You can look on general job boards like Indeed, Monster, and Craigslist. There are also service-industry specific job sites, like Poached or Culinary Agents.

Plus, Escoffier students and graduates have access to Career Services, which includes job listings, resume writing help, and job interview prep.

Once you secure that entry-level position, your best path forward is to excel at your current role while you work on growing the skills you’ll need to be a great manager! And make sure your supervisors know about your goals. Remind the boss that management is on your path, so your name will come up when a position becomes available.

If there’s nothing due to become available soon at your current restaurant, you may need to make a move to a new establishment to get your first management job.

Facts About Restaurant Managers 1

  • 90% of restaurant managers started out in entry-level jobs
  • 80% of restaurant owners started out in entry-level jobs
  • 90% of restaurants have fewer than 50 employees
  • Restaurants have more women managers than any other industry
  • Restaurants have more minority managers than any other industry
  • It costs up to $15,000 to hire and train a new restaurant manager

Culinary or Management Education Provides a Leg Up

While most future managers start in entry-level roles, an education may help them to progress through the ranks more quickly, and earn that restaurant management position faster.

Lance McWhorter, Food Network “Chopped” contestant, Executive Chef & Owner of Culture ETX, and Escoffier Online Culinary Arts graduate“I’m already winning contests and built my own restaurant. I kind of fast tracked myself. And I really feel like Escoffier was a huge part of that.”
Lance McWhorter, Escoffier Online Graduate; Executive Chef/Owner, Culture ETX; Food Network’s “Chopped” Contestant

Culinary school also proves to future employers that you’re serious about your restaurant career. Hiring and training new managers is expensive, and a prospect with an investment in their education looks reliable and committed.

Plus, a hospitality-focused education can help future managers to have a better grasp of concepts like effective leadership, cost control, and customer service. These are key skills for restaurant managers.

Understanding the Restaurant Management Hierarchy

What exactly do we mean when we say “restaurant manager?” There are many jobs under that umbrella. Not all restaurants have the same management positions, and they don’t all have the same titles. But here are some common roles.

Manager (or Assistant Manager)

Managers or assistant managers are usually the leaders of their particular shift. They’re the “first rung” on the manager ladder.

These managers support their staff through operational activities, like providing additional customer service, correcting errors and providing advice to other employees, problem solving, checking out sidework, and cutting staff on a slow day. They may also be responsible for training new employees and scheduling.

Cheerful bearded restaurant manager and pretty waitress posing for photography while standing against bar counter

Within this category, you may have a bar manager who will curate the cocktail menu and beer and wine lists, as well as keep tabs on the bartenders and bar guests. A kitchen manager will be in charge of the day-to-day of the kitchen, ensuring the prep and line cooks are accomplishing their duties. And a floor manager will be out in the dining room (aka “the floor”) where they’ll keep the shift running smoothly from the host stand to the kitchen door.

Restaurant Assistant General Manager

Just like the executive chef has their sous chef, a general manager may have an assistant general manager (AGM).

Some smaller restaurants may not need this position. But if the restaurant has a large staff of servers, plus a large group of managers, an AGM can be invaluable to helping the General Manager lighten their load.

They may be responsible for hiring, scheduling, and training. Or they may oversee the other managers as they handle these tasks. The AGM may also order supplies like silverware, coasters, sanitizer, aprons, and server books. And they may be the main point of contact for the Point of Sale (POS) provider and other vendors.

This position has a lot of responsibility, and is often the first salaried position in the restaurant hierarchy.

Smiling restaurant manager in a black suit holding a menu

General Manager

A general manager (GM) is focused on the big picture. They will implement new policies, and they may approve payroll, make sure bills are paid, and manage hiring and firing. Their tasks could also include marketing efforts, like special events, promotions, and social media.

Permitting issues could be under the GM’s purview as well, like renewing liquor permits or business licenses.

Good GMs may also take some floor shifts alongside the floor managers. This keeps them immersed in the restaurant life, so they can keep an eye on staff performance or guest complaints.

Regional Manager

Large restaurant groups may also have a regional manager who keeps a bird’s eye view on their group of restaurants.

They will work to make sure that each restaurant is profitable, and that they are maintaining food and service standards. The experience at one IHOP restaurant location, for example, should be very similar to the experience at another. Having someone oversee the operations of a group of restaurants helps them maintain consistency.

Male and female managers discussing upcoming banquet while looking at tablet

What Skills Are Necessary for Becoming a Restaurant Manager?

Restaurant managers have to combine people skills, food and restaurant knowledge, and financial competency into an efficient package to succeed.

Here are just some of the skills managers need to bring to their restaurants!

Creative Problem Solving

It’s 8:00pm on a Friday. You have a packed dining room, a kitchen rail full of tickets, and they’re three deep at the bar.

Suddenly, the power goes out.

What do you do?

If you’re the manager that day, everyone from staff to guests will be looking to you for answers and solutions. Can you think on your feet and come up with a plan that keeps everyone happy and protects the restaurant?

Creative problem solving is a key skill for successful restaurant managers, and one that you will build over your time working in the industry.

Strong Leadership and Communication

Managers hire, onboard, and train new staff. They’ll be responsible for promotions and accolades, as well as write-ups and terminations. They also help to resolve issues between team members.

A great restaurant manager has to be able to handle all of these situations with both compassion and firmness.

At Escoffier, Culinary Arts students can explore some of these topics in their Restaurant Operations course, which includes work on training, motivating, and disciplining staff, as well as creating a positive work environment. They could also study Business and Professional Communications to help them manage these interpersonal relationships.

Hospitality & Restaurant Operations Management students at Escoffier also take a dedicated Leadership and Development course to help them with individual and organizational leadership.

Male Restaurant Manager With Digital Tablet Giving Team Talk To Waiting Staff

Financial and Cost Control Skills

Restaurant managers can have a major impact on the restaurant’s bottom line.

Are they actively working to reduce waste and increase average spend per customer? Do they give away too much product? Are they shopping for the best prices on supplies? Are they carefully managing the schedule to make sure there aren’t too many employees at any one time?

Depending on the program, Escoffier students can take Foodservice Math and Accounting, which helps them to understand expenses, costs, and revenue, and analyze income statements. Cost Control, another course, introduces students to sales forecasts and tools to increase profitability.

Chef Freida Nicole Davenport“I had started the business before I started Escoffier, but I had been struggling to figure out how to do the numbers. My husband was helping me, but we just couldn’t put together how to price out a menu. Culinary school at Escoffier really put it all together for me.”
Chef Freida Nicole Davenport, Escoffier Graduate; Owner, Freida’s Sweets and Meats; Food Network “Chopped Grill Masters” & TLC “BBQ Pitmasters” Contestant

Organization and Follow-Through

With so many details to manage, from staffing to inventory to equipment to legal and health code compliance, restaurant managers have to be organized. A missed permitting or licensing deadline could mean the shutdown of the entire restaurant!

In the Facilities Operations and Compliance course, Hospitality & Restaurant Operations Management students are introduced to the regulations that they’ll have to manage, as well as some basics of building equipment and maintenance.

Great Customer Service

Providing good customer service is something that everyone thinks is easy, but it’s a real skill that must be improved over time.

Top-notch customer service requires empathy, listening, problem solving, and patience. Ideally, you would make every customer happy. But in reality, that’s just not possible. You have to do your best to solve their problem, while maintaining your poise and patience.

In Escoffier’s Hospitality & Restaurant Operations Management program, students take the Professionalism and Service Standards course, which focuses on polishing these skills, so you can both impress guests and set a good example for the rest of the staff.

Restaurant manager talking to customers at their table

Food and Menu Knowledge

Even though the restaurant manager isn’t the one cooking the food, that doesn’t let them off the hook!

Servers, hosts, and bartenders may come to you with questions about how food is prepared, or may need to verify if a dish is safe for someone with an allergy. The manager needs to know how to answer these questions on the fly to save time and get the guest the answers they need ASAP.

Computer and Tech Knowledge

While restaurant managers don’t spend full days on computers, they do have to manage schedules and inventory, and those tasks require some tech savvy.

You’ll also have to master the restaurant’s POS system, so you can void or comp items, apply discounts, add new menu items, and troubleshoot problems.

In the Operations Technology and Innovation course, Hospitality & Restaurant Operations Management students can get a look at the benefits of automation for restaurants, and how they may be able to help with efficiency and cost savings.

Restaurant manager having a conversation with chef with laptop on table

Start Here to Get There

Restaurants are high-energy and fast paced. Being a leader of all that activity can be invigorating and thrilling!

It’s a lot of work. But a background in the industry, supported by a dedicated education, makes it manageable.

Are you planning the next stage in your life? If restaurant management is in that plan, let us help you build the skills you’ll need to excel!

Learn more about culinary and pastry careers with these resources:

Source: National Restaurant Association

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