Food service managers are responsible for the daily operation of restaurants and other establishments that prepare and serve food and beverages. They direct staff to ensure that customers are satisfied with their dining experience and the business is profitable. 


Food service managers typically do the following:

  • Interview, hire, train, oversee, and sometimes fire employees
  • Manage the inventory and order food and beverages, equipment, and supplies
  • Oversee food preparation, portion sizes, and the overall presentation of food
  • Inspect supplies, equipment, and work areas
  • Ensure employees comply with health and food safety standards and regulations
  • Investigate and resolve complaints regarding food quality or service
  • Schedule staff hours and assign duties
  • Maintain budgets and payroll records and review financial transactions
  • Establish standards for personnel performance and customer service

Besides coordinating activities of the kitchen and dining room staff, managers ensure that customers are served properly and in a timely manner. They monitor orders in the kitchen and, if needed, they work with the chef to remedy any delays in service.

Some food service managers, including those who manage their own business, deal with suppliers and arrange for delivery of food and beverages and other supplies. Some also plan or approve menus and set prices for food and beverage items.

Food service managers are responsible for all functions of the business, related to employees. For example, most managers interview, hire, train, and sometimes fire employees. Managers also schedule work hours, making sure that enough workers are present to cover each shift. During busy periods, they may expedite the service by helping to serve customers, cashiering, or cleaning tables.

Food service managers also plan and arrange for cleaning and maintenance services of the equipment and facility. For example, they arrange for linen service, heavy cleaning when the dining room and kitchen are not in use, trash removal, and pest control when needed.

In addition, managers perform many administrative tasks, such as keeping employee records; preparing the payroll; and completing paperwork to comply with licensing, tax and wage, unemployment compensation, and Social Security laws. Although they sometimes assign these tasks to an assistant manager or bookkeeper, most managers are responsible for the accuracy of business records.

Full-service restaurants (those with table service) may have a management team that includes a general manager, one or more assistant managers, and an executive chef. Managers add up the cash and charge slips and secure them in a safe place. Many managers also lock up the establishment; check that ovens, grills, and lights are off; and switch on the alarm system.

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Work Environment

Food service managers held about 321,400 jobs in 2012. About 40 percent were self-employed.

Food service managers typically work in restaurants, including fine-dining and fast-food chains and franchises. Others work in hotels, catering, and other establishments, such as cafeterias in schools, hospitals, factories, or offices.

Many food service managers work long hours, and the job is often hectic. Dealing with unhappy customers can sometimes be stressful.

Work Schedules

Most food service managers work full time. Managers at fine-dining and fast-food restaurants often work long hours. Managers of institutional food service facilities in schools, factories, or office buildings usually work traditional business hours. Those who oversee multiple locations of a chain or franchise may be called in on short notice, including evenings, weekends, and holidays.

Education and Training

Most applicants qualify with a high school diploma and long-term work experience in the food service industry as a cook, waiter or waitress, or counter attendant. However, some receive training at a community college, technical or vocational school, culinary school, or at a 4-year college.


Although a bachelor’s degree is not required, some postsecondary education is increasingly preferred for many manager positions, especially at upscale restaurants and hotels. Some food service companies and national or regional restaurant chains recruit management trainees from college hospitality or food service management programs, which require internships and real-life experience to graduate.

Many colleges and universities offer bachelor’s degree programs in restaurant and hospitality management or institutional food service management. In addition, numerous community and junior colleges, technical institutes, and other institutions offer programs in the field leading to an associate’s degree. Some culinary schools offer programs in restaurant management with courses designed for those who want to start and run their own restaurant.

Regardless of length, nearly all programs provide instruction in nutrition, sanitation, and food planning and 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 dining room attendants. 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 undergo programs that combine classroom instruction and on-the-job training. Topics may include food preparation, nutrition, sanitation, security, company policies, personnel management, and recordkeeping. Some include training on the use of the restaurant’s computer system.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Although not required, voluntary certification shows professional competence, particularly for managers who learned their skills on the job. The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation awards the Foodservice Management Professional designation to managers who meet several criteria, including passing a written exam, completing coursework, and meeting experience requirements.

Personality and Interests

Food service managers typically have an interest in the Building, Persuading and Organizing interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Building interest area indicates a focus on working with tools and machines, and making or fixing practical things. The Persuading interest area indicates a focus on influencing, motivating, and selling to other people. The Organizing interest area indicates a focus on working with information and processes to keep things arranged in orderly systems.

If you are not sure whether you have a Building or Persuading or Organizing interest which might fit with a career as a food service manager, you can take a career test to measure your interests.

Food service managers should also possess the following specific qualities:

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.

Customer-service skills. Food service managers must be courteous and attentive when dealing with patrons. Satisfying customers’ dining needs is critical for success and ensures customer loyalty.

Detail oriented. Managers deal with many different types of activities. They interact with suppliers, workers, and customers; they make sure there is enough food to serve to customers; they take care of financial records; and they ensure health and food safety.

Leadership skills. Managers must establish good working relationships to ensure a productive work environment. This may involve motivating workers, resolving conflicts, or actively listening to complaints or criticism from customers.

Organizational skills. Food service managers keep track of many different schedules, budgets, and people. This becomes more complex as the size of the restaurant or food service facility increases.

Physical stamina. Food service managers, especially managers working in small establishments or those who run their own business, often work long hours and sometimes spend entire evenings on their feet helping to serve customers.

Problem-solving skills. The ability to resolve personnel issues and customer-related problems is imperative to the work of managers.

Speaking skills. Food service managers must give clear orders to staff and be able to explain information to employees and customers.


The median annual wage for food service managers was $47,960 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $30,820, and the top 10 percent earned more than $81,030.

In May 2012, median annual wages for food service managers in the top five industries employing these managers were as follows:

Traveler accommodation  $54,850
Special food services 54,210
Nursing care facilities 49,650
Elementary and secondary schools 49,440
Restaurants and other eating places 46,360

Most food service managers work full time. Managers at fine-dining and fast-food restaurants often work long hours. Managers of institutional food service facilities in schools, factories, or office buildings usually work traditional business hours. Those who oversee multiple locations of a chain or franchise may be called in on short notice, including evenings, weekends, and holidays.

Job Outlook

Employment of food service managers is projected to show little or no change from 2012 to 2022.

Population and income growth are expected to result in greater demand for food at a variety of dining establishments. People will continue to dine out, purchase take-out meals, or have food delivered to their homes or workplaces. In response, more restaurants will open, and cafeterias, catering services, and nontraditional food services, such as those found inside grocery or retail stores, will serve more prepared dishes.

However, employment growth should be limited as companies that operate restaurants and other food service establishments continue to consolidate managerial functions and use first-line supervisors to perform the work normally done by managers.

Job Prospects

Job opportunities should be best for food service managers with several years of work experience in a restaurant or food service establishment. Most job openings will result from the need to replace managers who retire or transfer to other occupations.

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.

For More Information

For more information about food service managers, including a directory of college programs in food service, visit

National Restaurant Association

For more information about food service managers and certification as a Foodservice Management Professional, visit

National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation

For general information about food service managers, visit

Society for Foodservice Management


Where does this information come from?

The career information above is taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. This excellent resource for occupational data is published by the U.S. Department of Labor every two years. Truity periodically updates our site with information from the BLS database.

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There are many excellent tools available that will allow you to measure your interests, profile your personality, and match these traits with appropriate careers. We recommend the Career Personality Profiler assessment ($29), the Holland Code assessment ($19), or the Photo Career Quiz (free).

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