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Is Restaurant Management on Your Career Menu?

Is Restaurant Management on Your Career Menu?

Whenever Jerry Westrom interviews a candidate for restaurant manager job, he talks about all the negatives surrounding the position before going into greater detail about the positives.

"I need to know their heart is in it, that they are truly committed," says Westrom, who owns an Ember's Restaurant in Cambridge, Minnesota. "If they seem skeptical about anything, I don't know if they will make it.

What Are the Negatives?

"Being a restaurant manager is a lifestyle, not a job," says Westrom. "If [managers] are going to succeed, they will put in 50 to 80 hours per week with high stress levels at times. But once you get everything going, it can be a fun career with very good pay.

Westrom suggests potential candidates consider the following:

  • What type of restaurant business are you going into? There is a big difference between fine dining, family style, fast food, and a sports bar or restaurant atmosphere. These restaurants attract different employees. A fine dining establishment might draw more experienced, mature employees, while a fast-food restaurant or sports bar might interest younger ones.
     
  • Do you want to be a floor manager, a back-of-the-house manager or a general manager? Each of these positions requires different skills.
     
  • When pursuing jobs, ask potential employers how long they have been in business, where they see the business growing, what opportunities exist for advancement and what type of manager-training programs they have.

"If someone wants a career in this field, try getting in with a franchise for training and a stable income," advises Westrom. "After three to five years, you can look at a privately held restaurant where you can go in as a general manager and demand a pay of $60,000-plus for your expertise or partnership.

The Positives

Jill Nelsen has worked as a restaurant manager in California and Minnesota and has more than 10 years of experience managing fast-food restaurants, such as Taco Bell and Rax Roast Beef.

"Restaurant management is great if you like a lot of variety in what you do, like to work really hard and enjoy working with people," she says. "It is a fairly easy field to break into without investing in an education; however, you can move up faster and not start at the very bottom if you do have an education."

Nelsen says the upside to restaurant management lies in the challenge, the opportunity to advance quickly and the chance to acquire an array of management skills. "I really enjoyed the opportunity to work with young people," she adds. "For many of them, it was their first job, and it was exciting to teach them the value of work and a strong ethic and to watch them grow into adults. Often, working in a restaurant can be like working with a big family.

Nelsen suggests asking yourself these 10 questions to help you decide if this is the career for you:

  1. Do I like to work with many different types of people, both as coworkers and as customers?
  2. Will I mind working all hours of the day and night?
  3. Do I like to motivate people to do their best?
  4. Will I enjoy the pressures of making a budget, staffing the restaurant and managing daily operations?
  5. Will I mind people calling me with questions on my time off?
  6. What do I picture for the future, for my family and for how we spend our time? Do a restaurant manager's hours fit into this vision?
  7. Am I highly motivated?
  8. Do I like to work hard?
  9. Do I like to reach daily, weekly, monthly and yearly goals?
  10. What does this career offer that others do not?

One last thing to remember about a career in restaurant management is that with all the training and experience you get, you can move to many different industries and careers, says Nelsen, who went from restaurant management to office management, to sales management to bank accounting, publishing and marketing.

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