Tips and tricks to getting a job as a General Manager
Working as a restaurant general manager can be fun and rewarding, especially when you step into the role with prior experience. Responsibility is on your shoulders from the moment you get the job. Everything from opening and closing to hiring, training, and leading team meetings is just a small slice of what takes up your day. And in today’s world, the restaurant manager position is one the highest-paid jobs in the industry, with incredible salaries and benefits.
The old saying “people don’t quit jobs; they quit bosses” rings true in most industries, including the restaurant business. Data tends to support it, as well. If you plan to build a career in the foodservice industry, becoming a restaurant general manager will be a huge and important milestone. Thankfully, the pathway to get there is also not as complicated as you might think.
The restaurant manager role is incredibly complex, but also distinctly rewarding in several ways. If you browse through a selection of restaurant general manager job descriptions, you’ll see several keywords that pop out in most of them. These typically will include (but are not limited to) terms such as “oversee”, “develop”, “manage”, “train”, “organize” and “supervise”. Restaurants aren’t just copying each others’ job posts.
It’s no coincidence that most restaurant general manager job descriptions look similar. Almost any restaurant gm job you apply to will require individuals who are capable of taking complete ownership over the day-to-day operations of a restaurant.
Quite often, restaurant owners will hire general managers who they hope will act more like a surrogate for themselves. To that end, anyone who works as a restaurant general manager may experience job duties that are almost indistinguishable from that of a restaurant owner. Everything is on the table: staff training, organizing and running staff meetings, cutting paychecks, and (when necessary) firing staff are all duties that general managers must be prepared to take on.
Restaurant General Manager Duties
Interview and hire new staff
Plan and organize staff scheduling for back of house and front of house operations
Regularly update training material
Periodically research and update food safety guidelines
Maintain adherence to State and Federal safety and sanitation requirements
Create and post instructional materials for front and back of house staff
Train staff on standardized restaurant procedures, safety protocols, and codes of conduct
Promote staff as needed and where applicable to the needs of the restaurant
Open and close restaurant securely
Conduct store inventories regularly
Order product for sale as needed based on inventories
Encourage staff with public recognition
Manage customer satisfaction responses
Develop and deploy marketing strategies for building and maintaining sales
Establish strategies for lowering costs and improving service quality
This list is not exhaustive and will vary between different employers, sometimes even within the same restaurant chains. Additionally, many franchised restaurants are independently owned and operated, leading to variations in what duties the owner expects the GM to perform.
There may be noticeable similarities for restaurant general manager responsibilities across the restaurant industry, but each restaurant responds directly to its own needs and challenges. As you apply to restaurant GM jobs, you may want to look for the unique job duties that each employer lists in the job post.
There are many routes to becoming a GM in the restaurant industry. However, most restaurant general managers are either hired externally or promoted from among the top-performing staff members who have put in many years of service for the same company. Still, the education and training requirements for restaurant general managers can vary depending on where you live or where you plan to work.
Most restaurant general manager jobs (and other management jobs in food service) require applicants to have a high school diploma or GED equivalent, at a minimum. Around 55% of restaurant managers landed their jobs with just a high school diploma or GED. Meanwhile, 18% had some college with a conferred degree, and 15% had less than a high school degree. The remaining 12% of restaurant general managers had a college degree of some kind.
Although these stats indicate that you can squeeze into a GM job without a college degree, additional coursework is probably going to necessary if you want to succeed long term. Many restaurant general manager jobs require you to have some fairly technical knowledge, especially with critical accounting software like QuickBooks. It may be necessary for you to take a few management courses, as well, to give yourself an edge while over your competitors for open restaurant manager positions.
There’s no special training required for a restaurant general manager. That said, the best candidates are those who have prior experience and training in the restaurant industry. Consider this: The turnover rate for restaurant workers in the US usually hovers over 70%. It doesn’t take long to earn seniority as a restaurant worker, and with that comes additional leadership training in other roles within a restaurant, such as shift leader or back/front of house manager. Working in these roles helps you acquire the type of training that restaurants tend to look for when they hire for general manager positions.
Most restaurant managers have worked in the foodservice industry for less than 5 years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That shows that you can work your way up to the GM position fairly quickly if you work to acquire the right skills and training before applying for general manager roles.
Important Qualities & Skills
Some of the most important skills for restaurant general managers include:
Restaurant general managers must constantly communicate to everyone — the owner, shift leaders, servers, cooks, and any others that work within the business. That communication will cover everything from organization to correcting mistakes to praising good work.
While the restaurant GM doesn’t spend the day working with customers, it’s the primary problem-solving role in a restaurant. When things go wrong, you’re the person who will need to solve those problems. Learning to manage customer complaints is a primary part of the job.
There is no “restaurant general manager” job without “management”. You’ll need to understand and apply management skills that include business strategy, scheduling, daily coordination of people and products, and much more.
General managers must have a strong sense of purpose and integrity, both when managing the restaurant’s finances and when handling people (workers and customers).
Technology and software
The general manager should understand a wide range of industry-specific technology and tools. A high-level understanding of POS systems is essential, for example. You may also need to have knowledge or experience with accounting software like Food Service Solutions DayCap, inventory software such as MarketMan, and basic word processing software such as Google Docs or Microsoft Word.
Store product knowledge
You’ll need to be a master of the products your restaurant sells. You may even be required to make decisions about what items go on the menu and may be required to properly price those items when organizing the menu. Restaurant general managers also need to train staff on new menu items when the menu changes.
Whether a major spill occurs, a customer finds a hair in their food, or someone slips and falls in the bathroom, restaurant general managers take the lead in solving daily problems that occur within the restaurant.
Unlike many other restaurant workers, the general manager is typically expected to be at the restaurant before customers come in to open the store, and after the last customers leave. The job may require you to be on location for every day that the restaurant is open, which may be as many as 7 days per week. Typically, most restaurant general managers work around 50-55 hours per week.
If the restaurant has multiple locations, some travel may be required. Many restaurant general managers oversee the operations of several locations. Travel will extend how much time you may need to spend on work during the week. As the job is often a salaried position, you may have benefits that include paid time off.
You may be wondering how to become a general manager of a restaurant right now, but what about your long-term career goals? The restaurant GM is a high-level position, but there are exciting opportunities beyond this one. Once you’ve gained excellent experience as a GM, you may be able to find work as an Operations Director, Sales Manager, or even an Owner or Franchisee. The latter of these (owner/franchisee) might be the most exciting future role, as your earnings potential is practically unlimited!
All of the skills you acquire on your path toward becoming a restaurant general manager are transferable in one way or another. Any job you take afterward will find some or all of your skills essential. The management skills you acquire throughout your tenure as a restaurant general manager will be immediately in demand for higher-paying GM roles at larger restaurants or other types of hospitality companies, such as hotels.
Restaurant general managers with experience may be able to expand into new roles, such as:
Chief Operating Officer
Chief Executive Officer
The higher you go on the ladder, the more training you’re going to need before you get there. Getting a college degree could be an essential step before you move beyond the restaurant general manager role, but it may well be worth it if you’ve maximized your income potential as a GM.