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Becoming a Manager of a Restaurant

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Todd is an assistant manager, and it is from the ranks of assistant managers that managers are chosen. How long it takes to make this jump from assistant manager to manager depends largely on two things: the ability of the assistant manager and the need for managers. A sharp, dedicated assistant manager might be able to make the transition to manager in one year, but for most it will take two years or more.

Assistant managers who become managers have certain characteristics. They have enthusiasm for hard work and the strength to work long hours. They like people and work well with them. They have leadership ability. Moreover, they have a service bent; they want to give customers what they want. Finally, of course, they have handled the job of assistant manager in an outstanding fashion.

The Importance of the Restaurant Manager

Restaurant managers play a vital role in the success of every fast food restaurant. In speaking about Wendy's managers, founder R. David Thomas said, "Restaurant managers are the most important people in this company. They are the key to satisfying our customers."

The manager sets the tone of the restaurant in a fast food chain. The manager can't change the menu, the uniforms, or the advertising campaigns, but the manager can make the restaurant a place which draws repeat customers. It is the manager who insists that crew members are friendly and courteous to customers and that the restaurant is attractive. And it certainly is the manager who determines that food will be served fast and be a quality product. It is also the manager who knows what to do when the power fails and three employees call in sick on the same shift. It is definitely not easy to be a manager, but it can be a very rewarding job and one more step up the fast food career ladder.

Being a manager is rather like owning your own business without having to take the risks. You are running a business, yet there are so many things that you don't have to worry about because most chains provide them. They will furnish training programs for your workers. They will handle insurance and taxes. They will supply accountants, lawyers, and marketing specialists when they are needed. They will even train you to handle your job.

Training to Become a Manager

Because good managers are a large part of the success of fast food chains, the major chains all have well-developed training programs for managers. Most begin with in-store training by the managers, who will gradually teach their assistant managers more and more of the jobs that a manager performs. The managers will also sit down with the assistant managers and help them select the company classes or seminars they should take to increase their knowledge of the manager's job. These will usually be one-day classes offered at a regional training center.

Depending on the chain, managers will often attend a one to two-week management course at a management training center, either before they become managers or sometime in their first year in that position. Companies that do not have corporate training centers hold their training classes in regional offices or restaurants. The purpose of this training is to develop and fine tune the managers' management skills. Topics covered in managerial training courses include such subjects as:
  • role of the manager

  • interviewing techniques

  • employee motivation

  • communications

  • stress management

  • time management

  • conflict management

  • conducting meetings

  • subordinate development

  • staffing

  • financial results

  • community relations

  • leadership

  • human relations skills

  • hospitality

  • equipment
Frequently, managers will be asked to read certain materials or complete assignments before attending these courses.

Corporate Campuses

Courses for managers are often held on corporate campuses that have very elaborate training facilities. McDonald's started Hamburger University in 1961. It is now located close to Chicago on an 80-acre, tree-covered site with two large, artificially created lakes. Hamburger University even features a United Nations-type simultaneous translation system for non-English speaking students. Since McDonald's Hamburger University is actually a licensed two-year community college, managers completing courses there can receive college credit for their classes.

Burger King launched Whopper College, now called Burger King University, in 1964. It is located in Florida at the company's just-opened new headquarters in a three-story building with a central atrium. It has classrooms designed to accommodate large and small activities, and within each classroom, there are facilities for audio-visual training.

Hardee's opened its training center, called Hardee's Management Development Center, in April 1987 and plans to build a permanent training center on a 70-acre complex across the street from corporate head-quarters.

Classroom teaching for these management training courses is strengthened by the use of discussion groups, role playing, and case studies from actual restaurants. Video, slide, and film presentations are often used to enhance instruction. Training centers may also have actual restaurant kitchens for hands-on training on equipment.

More Courses for Managers

Graduates of the week-long management courses are usually eligible to take further courses on a single management skill. These courses are given at both regional and corporate training centers and will generally require from one to three days of a manager's time. Note the wide range of topics which these classes cover:

Fast food companies are decidedly interested in making sure that their managers are well prepared to handle their jobs effectively. The more managers learn and the more professional they become, the less the turnover will be at the management level in the fast food industry.
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