How to Advance Your Career in Restaurant Management

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Restaurant management is one of the food industry’s most fast-paced and demanding careers. It requires master organizational skills, honed management abilities, and a gift for leadership. The hours are long and the appreciation is often scarce.

There are irate diners and eccentric chefs to manage. Waiters who miss their shifts and food orders that are delivered damaged, if they’re delivered at all. Then, there’s the required accountability to a restaurant’s owner, chain manager, and other higher-ups. And of course, the long hours – days that run into nights and nights that run into the wee hours of the dawn.

Miami, New York City, Albany, Naples and Boston pay top dollar for restaurant managers

But restaurant management is also incredibly rewarding: it’s the satisfaction of a job well done. It’s the glowing joy on a patron’s face after a meal thoroughly enjoyed; it’s a waitress’s relief when you find a way to swap her shift; it’s a restaurateur’s clap on your shoulder for milestones achieved and exceeded.


And it’s a job well compensated. Restaurant managers made a median $47,960 in 2012, and the best earners topped out at more than $81,030 a year. They may live in glamorous cities or rural abodes; they may work for famous chefs or friendly mom-and-pops; they may manage a staff of 100 or a staff of 5 – but whatever they do, they love it.


Restaurant management is not just a career: it’s a lifestyle. And if you choose this lifestyle, ahead of you lie decades of challenges, triumphs and job satisfaction.

Table of Contents

Restaurant Management: Career Outlook
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that the nation’s growing population and rising incomes over the next 10 years will result in a greater demand for restaurant dining, from fast food takeout to fine cuisine. As a result, the number of restaurants is expected to increase over the next decade.

Food services industry jobs are projected to grow 2 percent between 2012 and 2022

But here’s the unexpected bit of the BLS’s predictions: food services management growth is projected to grow just 2 percent, compared to an 11 percent anticipated growth across all industries. The reason: improved systems, consolidated functions, and greater responsibilities for existing employees.


The BLS advises that, “Job opportunities should be best for food service managers with several years of work experience in a restaurant or food service establishment… Jobseekers with a combination of work experience in food service and a bachelor’s degree in hospitality, restaurant, or food service management should have an edge when competing for jobs at upscale restaurants.”


Bottom line? Now more than ever, it’s important to build your expertise, create a foundation for your career, and establish yourself as one of tomorrow’s leading restaurant managers.


Additional Resources:

Bureau of Labor Statistics: Food Service Managers
Career Path Step 1: Get Your Hands Dirty
Restaurant management is a dirty, hands-on and exceedingly demanding job. There are the long hours (up to 80 hours a week), the ultra high-stress environments, and fierce competition to deal with, not to mention the delicate matters of diner satisfaction and the notoriously difficult-to-manage chef personalities.

It’s not an easy job. That’s why Jerry Westrom, restaurateur and owner of Cambridge restaurant Embers, says he starts off every job interview with an intimidating, albeit accurate rundown of the negatives of restaurant management. “I need to know their heart is in it, that they are truly committed… If they seem skeptical about anything, I don’t know if they will make it.”

There’s no better way to get your foot in the door of restaurant management than actually putting your foot through the door. Roll up your sleeves, dig in, and get a bit dirty. Do all the jobs, front house and back, from dishwasher to line cook to waiter to hostess. Understanding the lay of the land from a first-person perspective will help you be a more compassionate, more effective, and better manager in the future.

The more your experience hospitality and restaurant management, the higher your salary


As you learn about the restaurant business, take the opportunity to learn about yourself: what aspects of the job do you love? There are many facets to restaurant management, so you’ll have to decide whether you’d like to be a floor manager, back-of-house manager, front-of-house manager, or general manager. Do you prefer working in fast food, family style, or fine dining restaurants?


Now ask yourself whether a fast-paced, demanding career suits your disposition and professional personality. In many ways, a restaurant manager must be a jack-of-all-trades. The BLS asserts that restaurant managers must have business acumen, a talent for customer service, attention to detail, leadership skills, superb organization, physical stamina, strong problem solving, and public speaking abilities. Even more, here’s just a sampling of a restaurant manager’s daily responsibilities:


  • Restaurant Host
  • Sometimes Chef
  • Menu Planner
  • HR Manager
  • Supply Coordinator
  • Inventory Manager
  • Bookkeeper
  • Trainer
  • Troubleshooter
  • Maintenance Coordinator
  • Kitchen Staffer
  • Food Safety Compliance Manager
  • Restaurant Marketer
  • Leader


Any way you chop, dice or slice it, restaurant managers have many responsibilities – and are responsible to many different parties, from their kitchen staff to the diners who keep their restaurants in business.

Additional Resources:

Is Restaurant Management on Your Career Menu?

Wikipedia: Restaurant Management

The Important Qualities of Restaurant Managers

10 Reasons Why Hospitality Jobs Are Great

Culinary Careers: Spotlight on Restaurant Managers

Restaurant Management Principles

A Taste of Restaurant Management

Do You Have What it Takes to Be a Restaurant Manager?

The Top 6 Challenges of Restaurant Training

Served: Why I Work In Restaurants
Career Path Step 2: Pursue a Degree in Hospitality or Restaurant Management
Years ago, a career in restaurant management was not dependent on a college degree. Today, most positions require some postsecondary education – associate’s degrees, certificate programs, internships, etc. – and the best-paid positions often prefer job candidates with a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in restaurant and/or hospitality management.


A bachelor’s degree will earn you an average 54% more than just a high school diploma

The good news is that there are many culinary schools, technical institutes, online degree programs, community colleges, and universities that offer an excellent education in food service. You’ll learn about nutrition, food safety and sanitation, menu planning, and food preparation, as well as need-to-know skills in accounting, business law, customer service, general management, and other aspects of the food service industry. Additionally, many of the best programs combine classroom education with practical, hands-on study, often by way of internships or required on-the-job training.


Throughout your degree program, remember that you face fierce competition in upcoming years. Work hard. Study harder. Be the best student you can be. Graduate with honors. Give yourself a jumpstart in the restaurant management industry: build a résumé rich in work experience and educational accolades.


Additional Resources:

How to Become a Food Service Manager

National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation

What Top Colleges Have Hotel and Restaurant Management Degrees?

Top 10 Best Online Hotel and Hospitality Management Degree Programs

The 20 Best Hospitality Programs in the United States

10 Careers to Pursue with a Hospitality Management Degree


Career Path Step 3: Go On[line], Get Social
In the quest to make yourself the most skilled, marketable candidate for your ideal restaurant management position, there is no avoiding the online element. Simply put, the world, including today’s diners, lives online. Restaurants have gone digital, and a trained manager who also understands online restaurant marketing is a coveted hire.

Mobile and online engagement is becoming essential to restaurant success

Before jumping into the how, let’s focus on the why: check out these eye-opening (and eye-catching) statistics on restaurants in the digital age:


  • According to Cornell University, 40 percent of all adults have placed restaurant orders through online or mobile apps.
  • According to foodservice consultancy Horizons, 14 percent of online bookings are taken outside of a restaurant’s hours. That’s 14 percent that would otherwise be lost to other restaurants with longer hours or online booking capabilities.
  • Horizons also found that an additional 44 percent of online reservations occur during peak hours, when staff are potentially too busy to take reservations.
  • Finally, Horizons discovered that an incredible 67 percent of customers expect the ability to make a reservation from online. Furthermore, 80 percent of diners who research a restaurant and its reviews online expect to be able to make a reservation online.
  • A study from the University of California at Berkeley shows that a half-star difference in Yelp reviews can have a major impact on a restaurant’s bookings: a jump from 3 to 3.5 stars increases the peak-hours solid bookings from 13 percent to 34 percent; an increase in online feedback from 3.5 to 4 stars boosts that likelihood an additional 19 percent.
  • The most popular use of smartphones while traveling is to find restaurants.


Let’s put those into real-world examples, with real-world numbers:


  • Earl of Sandwich’s Punchh-powered mobile loyal program boosts consumer spending by 22%.
  • 10 million active Starbucks app users generate 4 million transactions a week.
  • A Nevada-based Papa Murphy’s SMS (text) marketing campaign created a 174% increase in normal business.
  • 45% of all Papa John’s orders come in via digital channels, including mobile.

Online reputation management will be an important aspect of your job

So how do you learn about the online side of restaurant management? How do you build digital cred and social know-how? Here are a few ideas:


  • Get active in online communities: Talk to colleagues, fellow students, mentors, friends, and diners about the apps, forums, restaurant industry blogs and communities they rely on to solve problems, find restaurants, and make dining decisions. Your research can lead you anywhere from the ChefTalk forum to the Roadfood Forums, and from Yelp to the best restaurant discovery apps.
  • Read industry blogs: Believe it or not, the blogsphere is ripe with resources for hospitality managers, restaurateurs, and other professionals in the restaurant and management industries. Read them. (If you want to start with some of the biggies, try The Restaurant Manager’s Office, The Hospitality Formula, FohBoh, Eateria, the Restaurant Marketing Blog, and Marketing4Restaurants.)
  • Read related-industry blogs: You know that restaurant management is about much more than the day-to-day of running a restaurant. Keep your skills sharp with blogs that dish on digital marketing, social media, human resources, management & leadership, and search engine optimization – the many skills you need to be the best manager in the restaurant industry.
  • Get familiar with online reputation management: Do you know the basics of online reputation management? Get familiar. It’s one of the most important aspects of today’s hospitality biz, where online reviews, ratings and public opinion can make or break a restaurant.
  • Download industry apps: You’ve heard of Yelp, but how about OpenTable? Does TripAdvisor matter for restaurants? What about Chowhound, Gayot, and Boorah? It’s your job to know.
  • Follow the best of the best: Sometimes, you can draw inspiration from the Internet’s best examples of restaurant marketing and social sharing. See what the best restaurants are doing with social, and learn from their best practices.
  • Become a thought leader: Building your own blog, becoming a top commenter on online forums, and doing social right can help you build your national reputation as a restaurant manager. Subject matter experts are known as thought leaders, and they are in very high demand as well-paid employees and consultants.


Additional Resources:

Online, Mobile, and Text Food Ordering in the U.S. Restaurant Industry

Five Best Restaurant Discovery Apps

The 10 Best Free Restaurant Apps

The Restaurant Manager’s Office Blog

The Hospitality Formula Blog

FohBoh Blog

Eateria Blog

Restaurant Marketing Blog

Marketing4Restaurants Blog

Top 10 Online Marketing Experts To Follow

Top 10 Social Media Blogs

Top 10 Human Resources Bloggers You Must Follow

The Best 25 Management & Leadership Blogs

Top 40 SEO Blogs to Read
Career Path Step 4: Climb the Career Ladder
While you work to understand the restaurant industry, get noticed, and establish yourself as a thought leader, you’ll also be hard at work, well, at work. Your day job is where you’ll hone your restaurant skills, people skills, organizational skills, accounting skills, and all the other skills you’ll need to be the best restaurant manager out there.

Learn to be an attentive and effective manager, not a overly demanding know-it-all

Whether you’re currently waiting for a promotion, laboring as an assistant manager, or this close to your dream job, there’s still room for improvement. Climbing the restaurant management ladder is a slow, methodical process that takes years. Here are a few reminders along the way:


  • Be the best: Excel at everything you do, whether it’s washing dishes, closing out the register at night, whipping up a perfect Caesar salad dressing, or coordinating wait staff. Challenge yourself. Your biggest competition is you, so work hard to be better at what you do, everyday. The people in charge will notice.
  • Get enthused: A can-do attitude will impress your boss and transform the way you approach your job. Enthusiasm fuels your passion, pushing you to work harder and brainstorm positive solutions. The right attitude will encourage you to take on additional responsibilities, which in turn will help you build experience and management skills.
  • Learn to be a good manager: A good manager is not a bossy boss: management requires diplomacy, patience and discipline. Internalize the basics of restaurant management, and adopt the seven habits of highly effective restaurant managers.
  • Find a mentor: Did you know that a mentor would help your career? This is especially true in the restaurant industry, where diners’ palates and cuisines are constantly evolving, technology is reshaping hospitality, and standards are always changing. The best part about finding a mentor is that it can be someone you see everyday, an industry insider you meet at a conference, or even a guru you connect with online. The most important thing is that you and your mentor have a deep and abiding rapport.
  • Network with powerful people: There’s no doubt that the restaurant industry overflows with powerful people: chefs, consultants, critics and other professionals who have their finger on the nation’s dining. Ping them on Twitter, frequent their lectures, and attend the same conferences. At a minimum, you’ll learn from the best; if you’re lucky, you’ll network in person and cultivate relationships with people who can propel your career to serious heights.
  • Get recruited: If you feel you have the credentials, experience and education to warrant a high-paying restaurant management position, check out headhunting and recruitment firms like Talent Served, RMS, and Gecko Hospitality.


Advancing your restaurant management career takes patience, motivation and years of hard work. Add a drizzle of thought leadership and the zest of experience, whisk in a can-do attitude and compassionate leadership, and you have the makings of a successful career. So go on, grab your ingredients and start creating the recipe for your dream career.


Additional Resources:

10 Top Characteristics of Successful Restaurant Managers in the U.S.

7 Habits of Highly Effective Restaurant Managers

How A Mentor Can Help Your Career

10 Top Characteristics of Successful Restaurant Managers in the U.S., 2013

7 Habits of Highly Effective Restaurant Managers

17 Things A Restaurant Manager Should Never Do


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