Catering managers run different kinds of food preparation and serving businesses. They work in a variety of diverse settings including on-site catering (parties, weddings, corporate events), restaurants, cafes, specialty food establishments (pizza, Oriental, bakery, etc.) and fast-food outlets. They may manage one location, but very experienced professionals who work for catering companies or large food service companies may supervise more than one location. Work activities could include running school cafeterias, restaurants, specialty food outlets, fast-food outlets and special catering events. Whatever kind of place is operated, catering managers need to create the correct kind of atmosphere for that specific business – fun, serious, formal, or romantic – and make sure food and service is top quality.
Professional catering managers working at individually owned restaurants or fast-food outlets might be responsible for everything that goes on. They might organize repairs to the building, think up special offers, sort out advertising, order food and greet customers. If managers work for a restaurant that’s part of a chain or that is inside a hotel, they will probably report to a general or area manager. People in the head office will deal with marketing and publicity.
The duties that are common to all catering/restaurant managers are:
- dealing with staff issues (work/holiday rotas, motivation and discipline)
- dealing with customers (who might have a complaint or a special request)
- making sure the equipment and furniture are in working order.
For example, a member of staff who is laying out tables may find there are not enough glasses or napkins. The manager will have to make sure that replacements are found quickly. Organizing staff and equipment are critical jobs. This is especially so in outside catering events, where the kitchens, the eating areas and the staff all have to be got into place in a very short time (and then everything has to be cleared up afterwards). In small restaurants and fast-food outlets the manager will have to do things like cashing up (checking that the amount of money taken matches the amount on the till receipt), book-keeping and taking cash to the bank. They might also train staff and, when the restaurant is very busy, they will help out by taking orders and serving customers. In bigger places they might have an assistant to help out.
Personal Qualities and Skills
As a catering/restaurant manager you need to stay calm under pressure and still get things done. You must be well organized and enjoy being busy. You must like working with people in this job – colleagues, staff suppliers and customers. You need good communication and interpersonal skills. It may be useful to speak a foreign language. You must be able to motivate staff and manage budgets. You need knowledge of health and safety issues and should be willing to keep up to date with changes. It’s also a job for people with a lot of energy. You’ll have to work long hours and be happy to work when other people are enjoying their free time. You’ll also be on your feet a lot – this isn’t the kind of management job that can be done from behind a desk.
Pay and Opportunities
Salaries for catering managers vary with the size and type of operation. The pay rates shown here are approximate. Salaries are in the range of $21,000 – $25,000 a year, rising from $25,000 – $30,000. Higher earners can make around $35,000 – $50,000 per year. Experienced managers supervising complicated and complex operations – many with multiple locations – are usually found in corporate executive positions making six-figure incomes and more.
Time on the Job
Catering managers work 40-60 hours per week; however, long hours are usual in catering and many work shifts, weekends and public holidays. Management trainees with large companies may be expected to move to different parts of the country to gain wide experience. The hospitality industry is a major employer and there are lots of opportunities for managers. You could work in a hotel or restaurant, a themed pub chain, the armed forces, a canteen in a factory, prison, school or hospital, or for a contract caterer – responsible for more than one restaurant.
It is illegal for any organization to set age limits for entry to employment, education or training, unless they can show there is a real need to have these limits. Some entrants have relevant skills and abilities gained in the catering industry, for example, food service and preparation or bar work. If you are working in the industry or have gained relevant skills, you can attend college part-time to study for qualifications such as a Bachelor or Master degree in hospitality management.