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Restaurant Manager Career Guide

What is a restaurant manager?

A restaurant manager is a key figure in the food service industry. This role leads the collective effort of the entire restaurant staff to deliver a memorable dining experience. Managers supervise daily operations, from coordinating with the kitchen staff and serving teams to liaising with suppliers and vendors. They are the bridge between the restaurant’s business objectives and the experience a customer perceives, shaping the atmosphere and quality of service. On a broader scale, their purpose extends to contributing positively to the community, offering nutritious food options, and fostering a sense of connection among diners within their establishment.

Duties and responsibilities

The duties of a restaurant manager are varied and challenging. They are responsible for all aspects of the restaurant’s operation, including food preparation, customer service, financial management, and staff supervision. These managers direct the preparation of meals, ensuring high culinary standards are met and dining service runs smoothly. They maintain competent service levels, address customer complaints, and improve satisfaction. In financial aspects, the manager regulates budgeting, manages payroll, and negotiates with suppliers. Training, motivating, and evaluating staff also fall under their responsibilities. In a nutshell, they have to keep all the gears of the restaurant machine in perfect synchronization.

Work environment

The restaurant manager operates primarily within the restaurant environment, ranging from small family establishments to large corporate chains. They need to possess adaptability as the pace of their work environment varies throughout the day. For instance, the manager must be able to maneuver the hectic rush of peak dining times as efficiently as quieter periods. Also, they frequently handle administrative tasks in an office setting, working with paperwork, schedules, and reports.

It’s important to note that the restaurant environment can sometimes be stressful. Managers should be well-equipped to handle pressure, from managing a diverse team of employees and meeting customer expectations to ensuring the efficiency of operations and dealing with unpredictable issues that can arise in the food service industry. Despite the challenges, the role can be highly rewarding, especially when exceptional customer experiences are delivered and business goals are achieved.

Typical work hours

A restaurant manager’s work hours are largely determined by the operational hours of the establishment. Consequently, the workweek can extend beyond the traditional 40-hour schedule. The manager should be prepared to work during weekends, evenings, and holidays when restaurants typically experience high customer volumes. Often, shifts can start early in the morning and last until late in the evening.

Despite the irregular and often lengthy work hours, many find the energetic rhythm of the restaurant setting invigorating. Managers are typically provided breaks throughout their shifts, although these opportunities may be less predictable at busier restaurants. Flexibility and a passion for service are key to balancing the demands of this role.

How to become a restaurant manager

This career guide section outlines how to become a restaurant manager, from initial preparatory steps to comprehensive training options.

Step 1: Obtain a high school diploma or equivalent

The first step toward becoming a restaurant manager is acquiring a high school diploma or equivalent certification such as a GED. Although higher education can be beneficial, a high school degree is the minimum educational requirement in most cases. During this time, focus on enhancing communication and mathematics skills, as they will be valuable in the later stages of the journey.

Step 2: Gain experience in the food service industry

Start by applying for introductory roles in the food service industry, such as a waiter, cook, or host. Through these positions, you’ll build familiarity with restaurant operations and learn the ins and outs of customer service, both of which are instrumental for any aspiring restaurant manager.

Step 3: Pursue formal education

While not always required, attaining an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in a related field – such as hospitality management or business administration – can enhance prospects. These programs explore important topics like food service management, business finance, accounting, and human resource management, providing the academic grounding needed to manage a restaurant effectively.

Step 4: Engage in vocational training and internships

Pursuing internships or vocational training at restaurants can provide hands-on experience in the practical aspects of restaurant management, like cooking, serving, inventory management, and customer service. Internships also offer networking opportunities, which can open up potential job avenues in the future.

Step 5: Obtain necessary certifications

Depending on the state, you might need specific certifications like Food Safety Manager or Alcohol Server Certifications. These demonstrate your understanding of the restaurant industry’s safety regulations, legalities, and quality control and are seen as essential qualifications by many employers.

Step 6: Gain management experience

Before becoming a restaurant manager, gaining experience as a shift leader or assistant manager can be beneficial. These roles allow you to develop management skills, handle complex situations, and supervise a team, all while continually learning about the functioning of a restaurant.

Step 7: Apply for jobs

After gaining adequate experience, education, and the necessary certifications, you are ready to apply for restaurant manager positions. Tailor your resume and cover letter to highlight your educational background, industry certifications, relevant internships, and leadership experience.

How much do restaurant managers make?

Restaurant manager salaries will vary by experience, industry, education, location, and organization size. Additionally, their pay can also be affected by the volume of the restaurant, the complexity of its offerings, and the level of service expected by its clientele.

Highest paying industries

  • Traveler Accommodation – $69,890
  • Special Food Services – $67,720
  • Amusement and Recreation Industries – $64,480
  • Health Care and Social Assistance – $61,250
  • Educational Services – $60,330

Highest paying states

  • Washington – $73,890
  • New Jersey- $68,720
  • Delaware – $64,980
  • Massachusetts – $63,140
  • Connecticut – $62,460

Browse restaurant manager salary data by market

Types of restaurant managers

This career guide section highlights the various career types and areas of specialization for restaurant managers. Below, we explore the unique attributes and responsibilities of each job title.

General manager

As the key decision-making figure, the general manager is often responsible for all daily operations within a restaurant. Their duties span employee management, staff training, ensuring product quality, and overseeing finances.

Assistant manager

Assistant managers usually serve as the second-in-command. They support the general manager with tasks such as scheduling staff, managing customer complaints, and overseeing specific operational areas, such as the bar or dining area.

Kitchen manager

Specifically focusing on the heart of the restaurant – the kitchen, a kitchen manager supervises all activities related to food preparation. From meal planning to maintaining health and safety standards, this role is integral for a smooth kitchen operation.

Front of house manager

Promoting a positive dining experience is the primary objective of a front of house manager. They manage all areas visible to guests, including staffing and training, coordinating reservations, and addressing customer concerns promptly.

Bar manager

For restaurants with a dedicated bar area, a bar manager can be crucial. They oversee the stocking of alcoholic beverages, manage bartenders, ensure legal compliance related to alcohol service, and may help develop a profitable and appealing drink menu.

Top skills for restaurant managers

This section outlines the primary skills and traits needed for career success as a restaurant manager. Mastering a balanced mix of business acumen, leadership abilities, and interpersonal skills can pave the way to a prosperous career in this field.

Leadership skills

Leadership is a central aspect of their role. The ability to motivate a team, delegate tasks effectively, and resolve conflicts is imperative. They must create a positive work environment that promotes cooperation and teamwork, improving productivity and customer satisfaction.

Business acumen

An understanding of the business side of running a restaurant is also necessary. This includes budgeting, inventory management, and marketing. These managers monitor costs, control inventory, and strategically promote their business to increase profits.

Customer service skills

An important part of the job involves delivering excellent customer service. The ability to handle customer complaints, ensure service standards, and enhance the overall dining experience is key to attracting and retaining clientele. An effective manager must be approachable and willing to address any dissatisfaction in a professional and timely manner.

Problem-solving abilities

Given the fast-paced environment of a restaurant, hurdles can arise unexpectedly. A capable manager should quickly adapt to situations and effectively solve problems, whether a staff shortage, equipment failure, or a disappointed customer. The ability to think on one’s feet and make informed decisions under pressure is a valuable quality.

Communication skills

Effective communication is needed in any managerial position. It entails conveying expectations clearly to the staff, understanding customer feedback, and negotiating with vendors. Managers with good communication skills can foster a harmonious work environment, smooth operations, and satisfied customers.

Restaurant manager career path

The restaurant industry is dynamic, and it thrives on fresh and innovative ideas. This constant innovation offers numerous prospects for a manager to expand their skills and take on higher roles. Gaining experience in a management position provides the essential skills needed to evolve within this industry.

There are many opportunities, beginning from the role of an area manager. This role is a natural progression from restaurant management, with broader responsibilities over several restaurants within a designated area. The area manager ensures that each restaurant under their wing is running smoothly and achieving its respective goals.

Further up the ladder, a role like a regional manager or district manager may become available. These roles demand a deep understanding of the various facets of restaurant operations. Regional managers oversee multiple areas and are responsible for their assigned region’s strategic planning and growth. Similarly, district managers have a larger territory to manage and must ensure that the restaurants within their jurisdiction adhere to company guidelines and standards.

At the highest levels, one could become a director of operations, vice president, or even CEO. These roles involve steering the strategic direction of a restaurant brand, ensuring profitability, studying market trends and competition, and driving new concept ideas. While these roles are challenging, they offer prestige, decision-making authority, and financial compensation rewards. Undoubtedly, this gradual process requires time, experience, and a commitment to excellence, yet it is indeed a viable path.

Another avenue is entrepreneurship. Many managers eventually decide to open their restaurants. The experiences and skills learned while managing a restaurant can be instrumental in successfully running your dining establishment. This shift allows for complete creativity and control, making it an exciting prospect for some.

In restaurant management, dynamic changes in dining habits and consumer preferences continue to transform the role. Today’s restaurant managers must stay ahead of technological advancements in the industry, ranging from online ordering systems to digital payment options. Additionally, the current health and safety standards have further widened the scope of their responsibilities, as ensuring a safe and hygienic dining environment has gained the utmost priority.

Sustainability is another key trend shaping this role where managers must now consider environmentally friendly practices. Whether concerning food waste management or choosing biodegradable packaging for takeouts, these aspects directly impact the job description. Another rising trend is the expectation for restaurant managers to create a unique and memorable dining experience, often defined by high-quality service and personalized customer interactions.

Employment projections for restaurant managers

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ projections, employment for restaurant managers is expected to experience steady growth. The BLS projects a 10% job growth rate for food service managers, including restaurant managers, through 2031. This rate is faster than the average for all occupations, with the high turnover rate in the restaurant industry often generating many job openings.

Restaurant manager career tips

Demonstrate a thorough understanding of the food and beverage industry

You must stay updated with the latest food and beverage industry trends in this role. Familiarize yourself with current food trends, dietary restrictions and allergies, and different types of cuisine. Learn about popular menu designs, food preparation techniques, and the latest food safety protocols. Understanding these elements will give you the knowledge required to make informed decisions that could positively impact your restaurant’s success.

Enhance your financial management skills

Being proficient in financial management is a key skill for a successful manager. You should be able to analyze financial records, interpret financial statements, set budgets, and make sound financial decisions. This will help you manage the restaurant’s budget effectively and can greatly contribute to the profitability of the restaurant.

Build a professional network

Networking is an essential part of being successful. Through networking, you can learn about best practices from industry leaders, hear about job openings before they are posted, and share practical advice with your peers. Here are a few professional associations and networks you might consider:

  • National Restaurant Association (NRA)
  • International Food Service Executives Association (IFSEA)
  • American Culinary Federation (ACF)

Commit to continuous learning

In the fast-evolving restaurant industry, continuous learning is of paramount importance to keep up with emerging trends, technologies, and best practices. Here are some areas you might consider for continuous learning:

  • Food and beverage service management courses
  • Restaurant marketing and branding courses
  • Financial management for hospitality industry courses
  • Advanced health and safety training courses

Obtain relevant certifications

Achieving professional certificates related to the restaurant industry can enhance your knowledge and skills and may increase your chances of advancement. Commonly considered certifications for restaurant manager roles include Certified Food and Beverage Executive (CFBE) and Foodservice Management Professional (FMP).

Where the restaurant management jobs are

Top employers

  • McDonald’s Corporation
  • Yum! Brands
  • Starbucks Corporation
  • Darden Restaurants
  • Chick-fil-A Inc.

Top states

  • California
  • Texas
  • Florida
  • New York
  • Illinois

Top job sites

  • zengig
  • Indeed
  • LinkedIn
  • Simply Hired
  • Monster


What skills are necessary to be a successful restaurant manager?

Successful restaurant managers possess organization, communication, problem-solving, and leadership abilities. They are adept at multitasking and managing people. Additionally, they must have a good understanding of the hospitality industry and food and beverage knowledge.

What are the day-to-day responsibilities of a restaurant manager?

Restaurant managers maintain the restaurant’s revenue, profitability, and quality goals. They ensure efficient restaurant operation and maintain high production, productivity, quality, and customer-service standards. They handle various administrative tasks as well.

Is prior experience needed to become a restaurant manager?

Many individuals break into restaurant management through years of experience in the food and hospitality industry. However, some roles, especially at larger restaurants or more upscale establishments, may prefer or require some form of post-secondary education in a related field.

Is a restaurant manager required to possess knowledge of food and beverages?

Yes, a restaurant manager must have a comprehensive understanding of food and beverage menu items. This includes knowledge about meal preparation, presentation, and safe handling procedures. They should also be able to answer guest queries regarding food ingredients and preparation methods.

What are some challenges a restaurant manager might face?

Restaurant managers often face challenges, including maintaining quality control, managing a diverse team, dealing with dissatisfied customers, and handling the pressures of a fast-paced work environment. Other challenges can include long hours, physical demands, and keeping up with trends in the industry.

What role does a restaurant manager play in staff training?

Restaurant managers take an active role in hiring and training staff. They are responsible for ensuring their team is properly trained in food preparation, customer service, and safety protocols. They set the standard for service and serve as a role model for the team.

How important is customer service in a restaurant manager’s role?

Excellent customer service is a key aspect of a restaurant manager’s role. They must ensure that every guest has a pleasant dining experience and leaves satisfied. This involves addressing customer queries and complaints and sometimes assisting the wait staff during busy times.

How does a restaurant manager ensure food safety?

A restaurant manager oversees and ensures compliance with food safety standards. They ensure that the staff adhere to proper food handling and sanitation regulations. Managers are often responsible for monitoring the kitchen, checking the ingredients’ freshness, and ensuring they are stored correctly.

What type of hours does a restaurant manager work?

A restaurant manager’s hours can vary greatly depending on the restaurant’s operating hours. Generally, they work full-time, and often their schedule exceeds the standard 40-hour workweek. This includes evenings, weekends, and holidays, the busiest times for most restaurants.