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Six Steps to Becoming a Restaurant Manager

Restaurant manager is a dream job for many. It’s a chance to oversee a fast-paced and exciting business. It combines creativity with commercial and culinary challenges. Plus, you get to be a part of people’s happiest moments – from memorable nights out to life-changing moments like engagements.

You’re at the vanguard of a machine with many moving parts, and you’re the epicentre for dozens of people in every shift, from staff to suppliers to customers.

It can be a challenging road from aspiring restaurant manager to your first day on the job. But we’re in the business of making restaurant managers (among other vocations). Hundreds of Le Cordon Bleu graduates have gone onto a career in restaurant management. Here are the steps in becoming one of them…

1. Key skills & qualifications for restaurant managers

An effective restaurant manager has a combination of personal attributes, acquired skills and the right qualification.

Restaurant management duties are diverse and challenging. On a personal level, you should be;

  • Disciplined
  • Prepared to work long, sometimes antisocial hours
  • Good with people
  • A quick thinker (crises emerge frequently and unexpectedly!)
  • Organised
  • An effective team leader

You can become qualified on the management side or via the chef route. Or you can set up the business yourself (as we talked about in a separate post).

We have numerous courses suited to people with management ambitions. Our Grand Diplôme® with Culinary Management Internship Pathway and our Diplôme de Cuisine with Culinary Management Internship Pathway combine work experience with a comprehensive curriculum.

Le Cordon Bleu also offers a Diploma in Culinary Management and a Culinary Management BBA (Hons) degree, among other restaurant management courses.

So, even within the walls of one school, there’s a range of choice. It’s worth taking the time to browse these courses to find the course style and career path that’s right for you.

Of course, many have gone from becoming a chef to a restaurant manager. And this journey can begin with one of our cuisine diplomas.

2. Career paths

Just as no two restaurant managers are the same, there are various paths to becoming a restaurant manager.

Entry level

Some hotel and restaurant managers begin in an entry level position and work their way up. (More on the career trajectory below.)

This isn’t as common as it used to be, as restaurants prefer qualified staff from the get-go. However, it can still happen. And if this is the path for you, it’s worth enquiring if an employer has a training programme and formal career path before applying.

Beginning as chef

The journey from chef to manager is not uncommon, especially if that chef goes on to open their own restaurant. But many chefs prefer to continue their careers in the kitchen and not in the office above it. For them, head chef might be a better career path. If the chef is interested in the mechanics of running a restaurant overall, then they might have management aspirations. You can find out more on how to become a professional chef here.

Managerial path

Many restaurants hire staff with a view to promote them further down the line, once they’ve learned the ropes and the quirks of the establishment.

A trajectory might be from working front-of-house, then to assistant manager and either manager of that particular establishment or a different branch belonging to that company. Another path might be specialist manager – moving up from floor manager or back-of-the-house manager to general manager.

Some hospitality schools (including Le Cordon Bleu) arrange internships and work experience as part of the course. As you might expect, having industry contacts upon graduation is a good start.

Opening a restaurant

As mentioned earlier, many restaurant managers become one by opening their own place. This is a journey that requires an additional set of skills, including sourcing financing for your restaurant, securing a location and even market research. You can find out more about this challenging endeavour in our guide to starting a successful restaurant.

3. Overview of responsibilities for restaurant managers

The restaurant manager job description is a long one. It’s a demanding but satisfying and exciting job. Though some would describe it as “jobs” – plural – as it is in fact a combination of several duties including food critic, HR manager, salesperson and marketing manager.

Restaurant manager responsibilities comprise:

  • Managing staff; including hiring, firing, disciplining, promoting and (likely) organising the rota/roster
  • Dealing with suppliers to get the best combination of high quality, fresh and affordable ingredients
  • Marketing (possibly both online and offline) and making decisions regarding promotion, such as house specials, early bird menus and more
  • Dealing with customers
  • Managing budgets
  • Overseeing the restaurant at peak times to ensure that food is served on time, at an acceptable quality and temperature, and presented in an appealing fashion

4. CV & resume tips for restaurant managers?

Your CV should reflect both your passion for the industry and your more formal work experience and skills.

Good CVs open with an introductory paragraph conveying the length and breadth of experience, and mention of why the job is important to you.

When outlining experience, it’s not enough to list duties; try to highlight positive things you’ve done. So, for instance, instead of “I co-managed [restaurant x] for 4 years” say “I co-managed [restaurant x] for 4 years, during which time I introduced the popular [initiative] that boosted revenue by x%”.

You can find templates for restaurant manager CVs here and resumes here.

5. Interview process for restaurant managers

If you’re sitting down for your first job interview as restaurant manager, you can expect to be asked about your experience, your enthusiasm and how you would act in a crisis: A restaurant works by implementing several simultaneous events, so a lot can go wrong at very short notice.

Here are some frequently asked job interview questions for restaurant managers:

  • “Why do you want to be a restaurant manager?” This is one you should also ask yourself before you embark on this career.
  • “Why this restaurant?” Is it this a restaurant that’s being chosen above others? If so, it doesn’t hurt to share your passion for the establishment. If this is one of many you’re applying to, do your research and find out why people would want to work there; whether it has a good reputation for career advancement, as an employer or whether it has a cuisine, brand or identity that appeals to you.
  • “Can you make a difference to this restaurant’s finances?” This is a good one to think of at any time in your career: Research and examine common mistakes in money management in restaurants (and other businesses); find out how to source quality, affordable food; talk about utility bills and how to keep them down; if you have ideas on how to maintain strong customer turnover, this is the time to share them.
  • “Tell me about dealing with a difficult customer.” If you’re in a position where you’re being interviewed as restaurant manager, you should have experience in dealing with customers and especially a story about changing one from an unhappy one to a happy one. This is not your chance to make fun of an eccentric or difficult customer! Instead, focus on your problem-solving skills and the positive outcome of the experience.
  • “Any questions?” This is the most common interview question, and thus the easiest to prepare for. Study the restaurant beforehand and find a good question that is not self-serving: A bad one to ask is “what are your policies on time off?” (save that for when you’re working in the job). A good one to ask might be “how often do you change the menu?” or “when was the last major rebrand?”.

Following your dream

Le Cordon Bleu has been at the forefront of the hospitality industry for decades. Graduates of our programmes have become restaurant and hotel managers, entrepreneurs, merchants, chefs and more.