June 7, 2022

If you thrive on leading people, nurturing a team environment, and making strategic decisions, you could make an outstanding restaurant manager.

A career in restaurant management can be thrilling, with challenges abounding and no two days looking the same. In the morning, you might be directing furniture delivery folks on where to set up new tables. In the afternoon, you could be training new front-of-house staff on restaurant protocol. During the dinner rush, you may be “sweeping the floor” – popping into the dining room to liaise with guests and take note of any issues.

The responsibilities of a restaurant manager are vast and varied. Here’s a deeper look into what exactly a restaurant manager does and if it’s a good career for you.

What Does a Restaurant Manager Do?

The restaurant manager role isn’t cut-and-dry. Depending on the type of manager and the type of establishment, the job requirements can be different.

Becoming a restaurant manager can take years of working your way up the ranks. Some restaurant managers start at the host stand and wind up in the General Manager’s office. Others might get hired on in managerial positions after graduating from an accredited hospitality and restaurant operations program.

While this career path can be potentially lucrative, the hours are typically long – with many restaurant managers working 60+ hours a week. And it can be quite stressful, as being a restaurant manager often involves putting out (metaphorical) fires. But if you’re up for the challenge, it might be worth looking into.

Male and female managers discussing upcoming banquet while looking at tablet

Managing Policies and Procedures

Sanitation requirements from the Department of Health. Customer reward and refund policies. Understaffed shifts that require extra hands. Overseeing operations is restaurant management 101.

This might include creating a food safety manual or designing a training program. It could mean jumping in to run food when a team member doesn’t show up. It can also look like managing payroll or incentivizing employees with new programs.

Operational duties like these involve oversight of the entire restaurant – front-of-house, back-of-house, and upper management teams, as well as all clientele.

Hiring and Firing

A large part of a restaurant manager’s role could be the hiring process. A foodservice establishment prospers with a team that can work like a well-oiled machine. If there are faulty cogs in the gears – perpetually late line cooks, servers with bad attitudes, custodial staff members that leave a job unfinished – the restaurant could be at risk of poor performance, negative reviews, or even closure.

Keeping an eye on the team’s capacity and knowing when to staff up (and who to hire) as well as when to let someone go can be a critical part of this job.

Employer with glasses and pen interviewing man in restaurant

Inventory Tracking and Ordering

Keeping a restaurant running smoothly not only requires skilled labor, but also a lot of supplies. Having enough inventory – and the right kind – is vital. From the ingredients needed for every dish on the menu… to a fully-stocked bar night after night… to the tableware everything is served on… there’s a lot to think about in terms of inventory management.

And knowing how to pivot in a pinch is crucial. What happens when the lunch shift runs out of cloth napkins because the shipment didn’t come in? A restaurant manager may be the one running to the supply closet to grab the backup paper napkins.

Cost Control and Financial Management

Managing inventory in a bustling kitchen is no small feat. And making thoughtful spending decisions based on the restaurant’s needs, goals, and recent performance requires analysis and budgeting. Strategies for cost control might be learned in school, but proficiency in these techniques may require quite a bit of trial and error.

Making alterations to the menu based on ingredient availability, overseeing vendor relations and looking for ways to cut costs, and monitoring average spend per customer can all be part of a restaurant manager’s day-to-day responsibilities.

Manager with tie writing on a clipboard in commercial kitchen

Customer Service and Conflict Resolution

Let’s face it: a huge part of any restaurant manager’s job is the management of people. Depending on the specific management role, this could include both the staff and the clientele. It’s not enough to put workers on your schedule and hope for the best.

There may always be issues like staff calling in sick, time off requests, unhappy customers, payroll errors, and interpersonal conflict among team members. These issues require skillful finessing – whether it be finding other staff to fill in last-minute, resolving customer complaints with diplomacy, or correcting operational errors swiftly and gracefully.

Marketing and Promotion

Another big responsibility for a restaurant manager is growing the establishment’s visibility and popularity. This might include special promotions like half-priced Happy Hour apps, exclusive events like a wine pairing presentation with a renowned sommelier, or digital marketing efforts like a company Instagram page.

Brand perception doesn’t always fall entirely on the restaurant manager. But with the help of marketing folks and happy customers with word-of-mouth promotion, a restaurant manager can enjoy the fruits of a well-loved business… and make adjustments in tougher times.

Restaurant manager having a conversation with chef with laptop on table

A Restaurant Manager Must Be an Effective Leader

With all of these roles falling under a restaurant manager’s umbrella, what types of hard and soft skills could be required in this position? For one, visionary thinking… with attention to detail. Managing a hospitality environment like a foodservice establishment means having the ability to see both the big picture and the tiny details.

For instance, recognizing that your restaurant’s ambiance needs an upgrade requires the ability to see the forest for the trees. But knowing exactly what needs to be done – like switching up your light fixtures, reupholstering chairs, or acquiring a new sound system – means the ability to fine tune the environment to reach your desired aesthetic.

Chef Maria Davenport“Many of our students have previous culinary experience but are not familiar with Front of the House operations. Our program addresses how to provide your customers with an outstanding Hospitality experience, how to manage employees in various roles throughout the operation, and how to manage the profitability of the establishment.”*
Maria Davenport, Escoffier Hospitality & Restaurant Operations Management Instructor

Most facets of the restaurant manager role also require some form of expert communication. Whether it be interviewing and hiring new culinary staff or conveying your vision for the restaurant’s next big marketing push, you can benefit from honing those verbal communication skills.

Leading people also requires a healthy dose of emotional intelligence – knowing when a slacking team member needs that extra nudge vs. extending empathy to an overworked employee takes a lot of consideration. At the end of the day, leaders inspire their teams through encouragement. No one wants to help sail a sinking ship, so conveying optimism even while navigating rough waters can keep a team running strong and a restaurant alive.

Start Your Career as a Restaurant Manager With a Relevant Degree

All of these skills may be explored in depth in an educational program. Restaurant managers might work their way up from an entry-level position, but having that degree can certainly help prepare them for better execution of their duties.

Escoffier online culinary arts graduate Tiffany Moore“Anybody can say they are a chef. As far as the management portion, that is where Escoffier is really helping me actually run a restaurant, run a café, or run a business. And that’s what I want. I want my own restaurant.”*
Tiffany Moore, Co-Founder/Chef, Event Hall @ Cascade, Escoffier Online Graduate

Escoffier’s Degree in Hospitality & Restaurant Operations Management can help prepare you with the knowledge and professionalism you may need to thrive as a restaurant manager. Plus, a hands-on externship can help you get your foot in the door, practicing skills you’ve acquired in the classroom while networking with industry veterans to potentially secure further employment down the line.

Read more about the exciting world of hospitality and restaurant operations:

*Information may not reflect every student’s experience. Results and outcomes may be based on several factors, such as geographical region or previous experience.