How to Become a Food Service Manager
Some food service managers start working in industry-related jobs, such as cooks.
Most applicants qualify with a high school diploma and several years of work experience in the food service industry as a cook, waiter or waitress, or counter attendant. Some applicants have received additional training at a community college, technical or vocational school, culinary school, or 4-year college.
Although a bachelor’s degree is not required, postsecondary education may be preferred by some employers, especially at upscale restaurants and hotels. Some food service companies, hotels, and restaurant chains recruit management trainees from college hospitality or food service management programs. These programs may require the participants to work in internships and to have food-industry–related experiences in order to graduate.
Many colleges and universities offer a bachelor’s degree in restaurant and hospitality management or institutional food service management, both of which may be part of a personal and culinary services program. Another field of degree that may be helpful for managers is business. In addition, numerous community colleges, technical institutes, and other institutions offer associate’s degree programs. Some culinary schools offer programs in restaurant management with courses designed for those who want to start and run their own restaurant.
Most programs provide instruction in nutrition, sanitation, and food 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 hosts and hostesses. 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 be required to complete programs that combine classroom instruction and on-the-job training. Topics may include food preparation, sanitation, security, company policies, personnel management, and recordkeeping.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Although certification is not required, managers may obtain the Food Protection Manager Certification (FPMC) by passing a food safety exam. The American National Standards Institute accredits institutions that offer the FPMC.
In addition, the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation awards the Foodservice Management Professional (FMP) designation, a voluntary certification to managers who typically meet the following criteria:
- Have supervisory experience in food service
- Have specialized training in food safety
- Pass a multiple-choice exam
The certification attests to professional competence, particularly for managers who learned their skills on the job.
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.
Communication skills. Food service managers must give clear orders to staff and be able to communicate effectively with employees and customers.
Customer-service skills. Food service managers must be courteous and attentive when dealing with patrons. Satisfying customers’ dining needs is critical to business success and ensures customer loyalty.
Detail oriented. Managers deal with many different types of activities. They ensure that there is enough food to serve to customers, they maintain financial records, and they ensure that the food meets health and safety standards.
Leadership skills. Managers must establish good working relationships to maintain a productive work environment. Carrying out this task may involve motivating workers and leading by example.
Organizational skills. Food service managers keep track of many different schedules, budgets, and staff. Their job becomes more complex as the size of the restaurant or food service facility increases.
Physical stamina. Managers, especially those who run their own restaurant, often work long shifts and sometimes spend entire evenings on their feet helping to serve customers.
Problem-solving skills. Managers need to be able to resolve personnel issues and customer-related problems.