How to Become a
Food Service Manager

Best Education Tracks, Key Skills, and Top Certifications

Food service managers handle the day-to-day activities of restaurants and other food establishments. Without managers, these places would not be able to function. If you’re interested in this job, read our guide below. You can learn how to become a food service manager, what the job outlook is like, and how much they get paid.

What Is a Food Service Manager?

Food service managers are professionals who oversee the activities of restaurants and other establishments that serve food and beverages. They usually represent the owner and their interests, especially if they aren’t involved in daily operations.

Food service managers help maintain all areas of the food service operations. This includes health and safety upkeep and staff management. They might also be required to support cooks and servers during busy times. Most food service managers start at lower-level jobs and move up to a management position later.

What Type of School Should You Attend
to Become a Food Service Manager?

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To become a food service manager, you might not need a postsecondary degree. Food service managers are hired because of their vast experience. Most managers have a high school diploma backed by years of experience in the food industry working as a cook or server. You should research the job requirements in your location before applying.

With that said, employers prefer applicants with postsecondary training, which can be acquired from community colleges or vocational schools. Some employers may also prefer a bachelor’s degree in a related field.

Best Food Service Manager Education Tracks

Many educational paths can lead you to a career as a food service manager. Your choice will depend on your learning preferences. However, you should first find out your state’s job requirements before you choose an option.

Below are the best food service manager education tracks.


Vocational School

Vocational schools, also known as trade schools, are institutions that train students in specific technical skills, typically in two years or less. These institutions are designed to give you valuable hands-on experience. You can choose a program in food services, hospitality, tourism, or a related field.

Most students choose training offered by vocational schools because it is less expensive than universities. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), in 2018 programs at two-year institutions in the United States cost an average of $10,704 per year.


Community College

Community colleges offer a wide range of programs, including two-year associate degrees. These certificates can help you apply for many entry-level jobs. Today, many online colleges also offer a wide range of courses with varied learning options.

Consider enrolling in an Associate Degree in Food Service Management or Hospitality. These programs will equip you with the skills you need to manage a restaurant, serve customers, and improve the overall dining experience.


Food Service Management Degrees

Although food service managers do not need a degree, many in the industry have some form of postsecondary schooling, including bachelor’s degrees. These degrees take about four years to complete. According to the NCES, the average annual cost is $20,598 for public schools and $44,662 for private schools.

A degree is not necessary, but a Bachelor’s Degree in Food Service Management, Culinary Arts, or Hospitality Management will increase your chances of landing a job. You will also learn the skills you need to thrive in the field.

How to Become a Food Service Manager: A Step-by-Step Guide

How to Become a Food Service Manager: A Step-by-Step Guide

If you are looking for the best way to become a successful food service manager, you should consider enrolling in an educational program. The steps below can help you find a great job in the food service industry.

Learn more about your state’s job requirements

The entry-level requirements for a food service managerial position vary from state to state. Your choice of school or program will depend on your state’s requirements. Research jobs in your area to see what kind of training they are looking for.

Get an education

You should pursue the required educational certificates based on your state’s entry-level requirements. Some places might require vocational training, while others might ask for an associate degree in a related field.

Find work experience

Most occupations in this career path typically require one or two years of work experience. You can find a job working as a fry cook, server, or busser. This can help you enter the field and understand the role of a manager.

Apply for manager jobs

Once you have experience in the field, you can look for manager jobs. You can move up on your own establishment or find a job elsewhere. Prepare your resume to highlight your education, skills, and work experience.

Earn extra certifications

To increase your employment opportunities, you should consider earning extra certification. This can help prove your skills both as a manager and a food service worker.

Key Food Service Manager Skills

Key Food Service Manager Skills

Successful food service managers combine educational training with industry-standard skills. Having such skills enhances your marketability when looking for a job. Below are some of the skills that all successful food service managers should have.


As a food service manager, you will have to be organized. You may have to multitask while overseeing a restaurant or food establishment. This includes making employee schedules and communicating accordingly. You also may have to deal with inventory and supply deliveries throughout the day.


Communication skills are vital to food service management. Managers often have to tackle and solve problems with clients or employees. You also might have to interview, hire, or fire employees throughout the job. For this reason, you should have the right communication skills for every situation.

Computer and Digital Literacy

Not all management positions require computer literacy. However, basic proficiency with software such as Microsoft Word, Excel, and Outlook will help you with day-to-day responsibilities. Such skills will depend on the company or the nature of operations.

Food Service Manager Salary and Job Outlook

Food service managers will have varied salaries because of the difference in industries and establishments. With that said, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) estimates that food service managers earn an average salary of $56,590.

However, the catering industry took a massive hit during the COVID-19 pandemic. The BLS estimates a job opportunity growth rate of one percent, which is slightly less than average. This number should climb back up as the food industry recovers.

Min salary


Average salary


Top salary


Entry-Level Food Service Manager Job Requirements

Entry-level requirements for food service managers are similar across the board. Although a bachelor’s degree is not required, many employers are increasingly hiring candidates with some form of postsecondary training.

Most employers prefer hiring management trainees from food service management or college hospitality programs. Such programs require participants to gain work experience through internships.

What Does a Food Service Manager Do?

What Does a Food Service Manager Do?

Food service managers plan, direct, and coordinate activities in food and beverage establishments. However, they also have other duties, tasks, and responsibilities, as explained below.

Study, Budget, and Conceptualize

When clients make requests, the graphic designer studies them thoroughly to get to know the requirements. You will also determine how much the project will cost according to the client’s budget. If everyone involved is satisfied with your recommendations, you can start conceptualizing.

Directs and Motivates Employees

As you will be working in a managerial position, you will be required to provide guidance and direction to your employees. You should foster cooperation and a positive work environment. You might also need to help resolve disputes and grievances between employees or customers.

Oversees Food Preparation

Food service managers oversee and coordinate activities of the kitchen, including the food production and preparation process. They make sure customers are served the right food with the right standards. They might also help carry out basic food preparation tasks to make sure everything is on track.

Schedules Cleaning and Maintenance Services

Food serving establishments need to follow specific rules and regulations for cleanliness. For this reason, managers are expected to schedule cleaning and maintenance services for equipment in the facilities. This is an important part of a food service manager’s job.

Food Service Manager Certifications

Certifications are not a requirement for working in most food service managerial positions. However, you can earn extra certifications to broaden your employment opportunities. They can also help you get a higher food service manager salary.

Below are examples of food service manager certifications that you should consider earning.

Food Protection Manager Certification (FPMC)

To earn this certification, you must pass the food safety exam from an institution accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). This certification proves your training in food storage, preparation, and service in the workplace. The FPMC is a good choice for any food service worker.

Certified Restaurant Manager (CRM)

If you’re looking to advance your management career in the food industry, you should consider this program. The CRM certification is especially important if you want to become a restaurant manager. To apply, you will need a character reference, FPMC certification, and 2,000 hours of work experience.

Certified Dietary Manager (CDM)

This certification is best suited for managers who are actively involved in the food production process. It is meant to provide training for people who prepare and serve food in an establishment. It is also ideal if you want to progress up the career ladder. You can get a CDM certification from the Association of Nutrition & Foodservice Professionals.

How to Prepare for Your Food Service Manager Job Interview

How to Prepare for Your Food Service Manager Job Interview

Interviews make most people nervous, but you can ace your job interview with the right preparation. One way to boost your confidence is by familiarizing yourself with common interview questions beforehand.

Below are some of the most common food service manager interview questions that you can practice.

Food Service Manager Job Interview Practice Questions

  • How long have you worked in the food industry? During this time, what experience have you acquired leading a team?
  • What would you say is your management style?
  • Describe a typical week working in the food management position.
  • What have you learned during your time in the food service industry?
  • Describe a time where you had to solve a problem with a customer or fellow employee.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Food Service Manager?

It can take between one and five years to become a food service manager. You can work in a management position without any education if you have the right experience. However, with a degree, it can take up to five years to become a food service manager.

Associate degree


Bachelor’s degree


Master’s degree


Should You Become a Food Service Manager in 2021?

There are many reasons why pursuing this career is a great idea. For one, you get to direct and organize activities in the field. Also, most food service manager salaries are higher than lower-level food service rates.

If you enjoy leadership positions and working in the hospitality industry, you should consider a career as a food service manager.

Food Service Manager FAQ

How much do food service managers make?

Salaries for food service managers vary based on differences in industries and establishments. With that said, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics estimates that food service managers earn an average salary of $56,590 per year.

Where do food service managers work?

Food service managers work in different establishments such as restaurants, cafeterias, and fast food establishments. They might work during weekdays, evenings, weekends, and holidays.

What is the most challenging part of being a food service manager?

The most stressful part about being a food service manager is dissatisfied customers. Restaurants serving large crowds of people often have hectic food preparation processes. Such processes can affect the overall customer service experience.

Are food service managers in demand?

Food service managers have suffered a major hit during COVID-19. However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that this industry will see overall growth over the next decade.

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