Catering managers plan, organise and develop the food and beverage services of organisations and businesses, while meeting customer expectations, food and hygiene standards and financial targets.
The role varies according to the size and nature of the business. In a small establishment, the catering manager usually has a hands-on role and is involved in the day-to-day running of the operation including staff supervision and events management.
In larger organisations, however, the catering manager might have the help of other managers and supervisors to handle the different catering functions and catering outlets.
Catering managers can work in-house for a variety of organisations, including hospitals, schools, factories, prisons, cruise ships, hotel chains, universities and visitor attractions, or can work for a contract catering company providing services to a range of clients.
The day-to-day routine of a catering manager is likely to vary greatly but can include:
- managing the food and beverage provision for functions and events;
- supervising catering and waiting staff at functions;
- planning menus in consultation with chefs;
- recruiting and training permanent and casual staff;
- organising, leading and motivating the catering team;
- planning staff shifts and rotas;
- ensuring health and safety regulations are strictly observed;
- budgeting and establishing financial targets and forecasts;
- monitoring the quality of the product and service provided;
- keeping financial and administrative records;
- managing the payroll and monitoring spending levels;
- maintaining stock levels and ordering new supplies as required;
- interacting with customers if involved with front of house work;
- liaising with suppliers and clients;
- negotiating contracts with customers, assessing their requirements and ensuring they are satisfied with the service delivered (in contract catering);
- ensuring compliance with all fire, licensing, and employment regulations;
- maximising sales and meeting profit and financial expectations.
In more senior posts, principal tasks involve:
- overseeing the management of facilities, e.g. checking event bookings and allocation of resources/staff;
- planning new promotions and initiatives, and contributing to business development;
- dealing with staffing and client issues;
- keeping abreast of trends and developments in the industry, such as menus or trends in consumer tastes.
- Salaries vary depending on a range of factors, including type and size of organisation, job sector and region. Trainee catering managers may start on salaries in the region of £15,000 to £21,000.
- Once fully trained, managers can earn over £22,000 and with experience may progress up to £45,000 in some organisations.
Salary figures are intended as a guide only.
Working in the hospitality industry often involves shift work with long and unsocial hours, including evenings and weekends. In hospitality service operations within business, industry and institutions, managers are more likely to work normal office hours.
What to expect
- In larger organisations, the work tends to be office based, although catering managers may be expected to spend some time working within busy restaurants and kitchens.
- Catering managers may be responsible for the catering of one site only. Others may have overall responsibility for a number of sites (that have to be visited on a regular basis) with a number of assistant managers working under them.
- Job opportunities are available throughout the UK.
- The role is physically demanding and the pressures of providing a consistently good service can cause stress. Catering for events can be particularly stressful.
- Travel within the working day can be a regular feature, but absence from home overnight or overseas work or travel is rare, unless working in an international role.
You do not need a degree or HND to enter the role of catering manager, but it can help you to start at a higher level and may aid career progression later on.
Relevant degree and HND subjects are available, including:
- culinary arts or culinary management;
- hospitality management;
- food science and technology;
- business or management studies.
Some catering companies run graduate training schemes, which usually accept students from a variety of degrees as long as they have a good grade.
Depending on the level of your qualifications, you may start as a catering assistant and then work your way up to catering manager once you have more experience. Most entry-level positions are at supervisory or assistant manager level. Ideally, you should aim for a first post that offers good all-round experience and a programme of training.
A postgraduate qualification is not essential for entry to the profession, although if you have a non-related degree you may choose to take a postgraduate qualification in hospitality management either before or after entry.
Useful information on news and careers in hospitality is available from the Hospitality Guild.
You will need to show:
- strong communication and interpersonal skills;
- the ability to think on your feet and take initiative;
- tact and diplomacy;
- teamworking skills;
- the ability to lead and motivate staff;
- administrative ability and IT literacy;
- numeracy and financial skills in order to manage a budget;
- an appreciation of customer expectations and commercial demands;
- stamina and the ability to work under pressure;
- a well-organised approach to work;
- flexibility and the ability to solve problems in a pressurised environment;
- customer-facing experience;
- experience in improving service delivery;
- drive and determination to improve standards and profitability;
- additional languages and geographical mobility (for international hotel chains).
Relevant experience is vital, so it is worthwhile finding part-time or seasonal work in catering outlets such as pubs, restaurants and fast-food chains. Employers are particularly drawn to candidates with strong commercial sense, a drive to deliver excellence and motivation to contribute ideas and upscale the profits of the organisation. They will also be looking for experience of people management.
As a catering manager, you will be able to find employers in several different areas including:
- armed forces;
- businesses and industry, e.g. large factories;
- cruise ships;
- hotel chains;
- local authorities;
- retail outlets;
- schools and higher education institutions;
- tourist attractions.
It is also possible to work for contract catering companies, providing food and beverage services to a range of clients.
Look for job vacancies at:
- Careers in Food & Drink
- The Caterer
- Hospitality Guild Jobs
- Hospitality Leisure Recruitment
- Websites of major hotel groups, restaurant chains and contract catering companies.
Training varies depending on the sector and employer, so it is important to do your research when choosing where you want to work. Find out what prospective employers have to offer in the way of experience and training.
If you are on a graduate training scheme you will usually gain experience in a wide range of areas, including:
- financial management;
- sales and marketing;
- customer care and human resource management;
- front of house roles.
During this time you are able to learn from experienced colleagues and managers. Gaining experience in a range of roles is important for future career development and opportunities.
It is important that catering managers keep up to date with relevant skills and training. To do this, you should carry out continuing professional development (CPD) activities. These can range from attending courses and conferences, to researching and reading trade press. A list of relevant training opportunities is available from the Hospitality Guild Training Guide.
The Institute of Hospitality offers its own qualifications, including the Level 4 Diploma in Advanced Hospitality and Tourism Management. It also provides advice and support on CPD, including an online tool for recording activities and online hospitality CPD modules.
It can be useful to get membership of a professional body as it will provide you with networking opportunities and access to industry publications. Relevant bodies include:
If you have a non-relevant degree you may choose to take a postgraduate qualification in hospitality management. Those with management experience may go on to undertake an MBA specialising in hospitality management.
During the early stages of your career, it is likely that you will work in a number of different catering roles in order to gain a broad range of experience, perhaps doing a mixture of contract catering and in-house work.
You will normally start by working in a supervisory role, then move up to become assistant catering manager before progressing to the position of catering manager.
Promotion prospects are generally good for those with ability, strong interpersonal skills and a high level of motivation. It is quite common to gain a role with management responsibility fairly early on in your career.
From the role of catering manager it is typical to move to either food and beverage director (in hotel chains) or assistant manager (in smaller hotels) or catering directors (in the public sector).
Choosing to work for a well-established company can lead to a broader range of opportunities and greater support for training and development. Some of the larger hotels and catering organisations also operate overseas, so there are opportunities for foreign placements.
Once you have substantial experience, you may choose to set up your own contract catering business, supplying food to different organisations and businesses.
The role of catering manager offers the chance to gain highly transferable management skills and, in large organisations, it is possible to move into other functions, such as marketing, sales, human resource management, training and facilities management.