Pros and Cons of a Career in Kitchen Management
Kitchen managers oversee the cooking operations in restaurants and other professional food service establishments. Check out the pros and cons of becoming a kitchen manager to get an idea if this career is a good fit for you.
|Pros of a Career in Kitchen Management|
|Minimal educational requirements (high school diploma is usually sufficient)*|
|Solid earning potential in comparison to education requirements (median salary of about $47,000)**|
|Opportunities to work for yourself (40% of food service managers were self-employed in 2012)*|
|Can work for a variety of establishments, including restaurants, catering companies, schools and hospitals*|
|May be able to choose kitchen staff (kitchen managers can usually hire, promote and fire the employees that work under them)*|
|Cons of a Career in Kitchen Management|
|Sluggish job prospects (employment was expected to grow by 2% from 2012 to 2022)*|
|Long work days (Some kitchen managers work up to 15 hours a day and over 50 hours a week)*|
|Hectic and sometimes stressful work environment*|
|May get called in to work on short notice, especially on nights and weekends*|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), **Salary.com.
Essential Career Information
Kitchen managers are responsible for the overall condition and operation of the kitchen. As a kitchen manager, you'll likely hire and train new employees and conduct regular employee evaluations. You could be responsible for scheduling employees, keeping track of inventory, placing orders for supplies and ingredients, and maintaining safety standards. If something goes wrong, you'll need to quickly find a solution and keep everything running smoothly. You'll interact with all of the employees who work in the kitchen as well as those who don't, so it's important that you're able to communicate effectively.
Salary and Career Outlook
According to Salary.com, kitchen managers made a median annual income of approximately $47,000 as of 2015. This was about $12,000 more per year than the median yearly income of all workers who had a high school diploma and no further education (based on median salary statistics from the BLS in 2014). Salary.com found that the top 10% of kitchen managers made more than $65,000 as of 2015.
The BLS projected that employment of food service managers would grow by about 2% during the decade 2012-2022. This expected growth was due to a projected population growth and a subsequent increase in the number of new food establishments. However, the growth will be somewhat limited as restaurants opt to consolidate managerial functions and use first-line supervisors instead of managers.
Career Skills and Requirements
Kitchen managers need to have previous food service experience before they can become managers. You'll need to be able to follow state and federal regulations concerning kitchen and food safety. Leadership and people skills are required to oversee the staff and make sure everyone knows what to do and how to do it. You should be familiar with working in a restaurant/food service environment and be able to maintain your composure in high-pressure situations.
Job Postings from Real Employers
Employers are looking for kitchen managers with strong food service histories and the ability to multitask. Some restaurants want kitchen managers with a background in their specific establishment style, i.e. family dining, fine dining, fast food, etc. To give you an idea of what employers might look for, here are some sample job postings from May 2012:
- A buffet chain in West Virginia advertised for a kitchen manager who would be able to work between 55 and 58 hours a week. Qualifications included experience in family dining management and some college coursework or training in hospitality.
- A restaurant in Massachusetts wanted a kitchen manager capable of overseeing the kitchen's human resource (HR) objectives while managing day-to-day activities. This position required applicants to have at least 2 years of experience and possess skills in verbal communication and food sanitation.
- A child care center in Texas was looking for a kitchen manager to help provide eco-healthy food for the children. This position required 2 years of experience working in a child care or school lunchroom setting. Applicants needed to have a driver's license and be willing to complete CPR training.
- A fast casual dining restaurant in Arizona advertised for a kitchen manager with a passion for food, wine and hospitality. Qualifications included strong communication and leadership skills, as well as 3-5 years experience in fast casual dining.
- A Pennsylvania casual dining establishment wanted a kitchen manager with 3-5 years experience handling the HR aspects of kitchens. Applicants needed good communication skills and to be able to contribute to team development.
How to Get an Edge in the Field
With demand for kitchen managers declining, competition likely will be stiff for these positions. You'll want to show potential employers that you have what it takes to be in charge by getting as much experience in the food industry as you can. If you're interested in working at a specific type of establishment, you can start by becoming a waiter or a cook at that type of restaurant. Not only would you be opening up opportunities for promotions within the company, you'd be gaining valuable experience that could give you an edge over other applicants who have the same amount of experience in other areas of food service.
Knowledge of proper food preparation, sanitation and other industry practices also can give your job search a boost. You can gain this knowledge through a certificate or associate's degree program in food service management or a bachelor's degree program in restaurant management, hospitality or a related field. The BLS notes that employers increasingly prefer job candidates who've completed some postsecondary education and that they sometimes recruit trainees from these programs.
Since you'll be in charge of the entire kitchen staff as a kitchen manager, you should be comfortable with interviewing, disciplining and leading people. Networking with industry professionals and having a solid list of references from the food industry can be the difference between getting hired and having to keep searching for a job.
Other Careers to Consider
Chefs plan meals and directly oversee the preparation of food by the kitchen staff. They develop recipes and assist the kitchen manager with determining what will be featured on the menu. Instead of worrying about every aspect of running a kitchen, the chef focuses on making sure the ingredients are fresh and the dishes are prepared correctly. Chefs can gain their skills through kitchen experience or by attending a culinary school. Similar to kitchen managers, the BLS projected that demand for chefs would see little to no change from 2010-2020. As of 2011, chefs made a median annual salary of about $42,000, according to the BLS.
If you're looking for a management position that takes you out of the kitchen and has slightly better job growth, you might be interested in becoming a lodging manager. Lodging managers have a number of responsibilities, including greeting guests, hiring staff members and making sure that everything is clean and presentable. Although smaller establishments may only require a high school diploma, large hotel chains typically want lodging managers who have a bachelor's degree in hotel management or hospitality. The BLS projected that overall job opportunities for lodging managers would increase by 8% between 2010 and 2020. Lodging managers earned a median salary of roughly $47,000 as of 2011, according to the BLS.