A fast food restaurant manager is essentially a commercial business manager, with ultimate responsibility for safeguarding the financial success of a specific outlet and maintaining the reputation of the company.

The role has a strong hospitality element, ensuring that the restaurant delivers high-quality food and drink and good customer service. However, it also includes activities common to business managers within any sector, including overseeing:

  • finance;
  • human resources;
  • marketing;
  • operations;
  • sales.

In some organisations, management is on a relatively large scale, as some restaurants have a turnover of more than £1million and more than 50 staff.

Responsibilities

The concept of fast food no longer conjures up images of burgers and pizza. Coffee houses, sandwich shops and even sushi bars are considered to be fast food outlets.

The managers of all these establishments, regardless of their end product, face similar responsibilities, including:

  • operational management: organising stock and equipment, ordering supplies and overseeing building maintenance, cleanliness and security;
  • financial management: planning and working to budgets, maximising profits and achieving sales targets set by head office, controlling takings in the restaurant, administering payrolls, etc;
  • people management: recruiting new staff, training and developing existing staff, motivating and encouraging staff to achieve targets, coordinating staff scheduling and rotas;
  • working to ensure standards of hygiene are maintained and that the restaurant complies with health and safety regulations;
  • ensuring high standards of customer service are maintained;
  • implementing, and instilling in their teams, company policies, procedures, ethics, etc;
  • handling customer complaints and queries;
  • implementing branded promotional campaigns from head office, including the handling of point of sale promotional materials, or devising your own promotional campaigns;
  • preparing reports and other performance analysis documentation;
  • reporting to and attending regular meetings with area managers or head office representatives;
  • establishing relationships with the local community and undertaking activities that comply with the company's corporate social responsibility programmes.

Salary

  • The range of typical starting salaries falls between £18,500 and £25,000 for assistant manager level positions, rising to £28,000 with experience.
  • General managers generally earn between £28,000 and £32,000.
  • Regional managers, overseeing several restaurants, can earn up to and in excess of £50,000.
  • A salary weighting is usually offered for positions based in London and the South East.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Employee benefits

  • Most companies in this sector offer benefits packages to management staff, which may include pension schemes, share options, private healthcare, company car and/or discounts for friends and family.
  • As the environment is sales-target driven, profit or performance-related bonuses are common.

Working hours

Hours of work are generally long and shift based, with evening, weekend and public holiday work to be expected. Some managers may work 'split shifts', with early starts, time off in the middle of the day and a return to work for a later shift.

Part-time work is not usual.

Field or area managers who supervise several restaurants may be responsible for managing their own diaries, so flexible working is possible.

What to expect

  • Rapid progression to senior management levels is possible for those who show commitment and drive.
  • Many companies operate franchising opportunities, which offer individuals the chance to invest in and run their own branch.
  • Due to the heavy financial commitment, this is an unlikely move for those starting out in their career but it is a route to self-employment.
  • The environment is fast paced, with the emphasis on delivering good customer service in a limited time frame. The atmosphere can be hot, noisy and bustling. Most of a manager's time will be spent 'walking the floor' and therefore spent moving around on foot or standing. It is both physically and mentally demanding.
  • Most managers are in charge of one restaurant and mainly based at one site, but those with responsibility for a number of outlets may need to travel.
  • There is an even gender balance across the sector.
  • Company uniforms are commonly worn incorporating the appropriate health and safety requirements associated with food preparation.
  • Opportunities are available across the UK. Although traditionally city-based, out of town shopping centres, leisure facilities and tourist attractions now mean fast food outlets are found throughout the country. Overseas travel is not common but many companies do have branches around the world so secondments and transfers are possible.

Qualifications

A degree is only a requirement if you are joining a formal graduate-management training programme. These schemes accept graduates from any discipline, but a number of specialist degree courses are available including:

  • culinary arts management;
  • hospitality management;
  • hotel and catering management.

Many managers begin their careers as counter-service staff and work their way up to management level by acquiring experience and not through formal qualifications. There are, however, a wide range of relevant full-time and part-time qualifications available.

There are one-year postgraduate conversion courses in hotel and catering management or hospitality management, and a postgraduate diploma or Masters qualification in hospitality management. Postgraduate courses are not a requirement for entry to graduate programmes.

Additional relevant qualifications include hospitality management (HND), hospitality supervision (BTEC) and a whole range of leisure management or business management courses. For full details, see Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS).

Other entry routes include apprenticeships (open to people up to 25 years of age). The hospitality and tourism sector offers a large number of apprenticeships each year.

Comprehensive information about careers in the hospitality industry, including details about apprenticeships and high quality industry-approved training is available from the sector skills council People 1st.

Skills

Within the sector, formal qualifications are generally considered less important than evidence of relevant work experience and, more importantly, the personal qualities needed to be a successful manager. You should, therefore, have some or all of the following:

  • excellent customer service skills;
  • an ability to lead and motivate teams and influence people;
  • good organisational skills;
  • energy and stamina;
  • decision-making ability and problem-solving skills;
  • strong communication skills, tact and diplomacy.

Employers

Fast food outlets can be found in:

  • city centres;
  • out of town shopping centres;
  • leisure complexes (cinemas, bowling alleys, ice rinks);
  • public transport stations;
  • airports;
  • tourist attractions (theme parks, etc).

Fast food companies usually lease outlets or franchises within these locations and managers are employed by these companies rather than by the overall centre or complex, though there may be exceptions.

Organisations usually considered to deliver a 'fast food' service include:

  • pizza restaurants, e.g. Pizza Hut;
  • burger bars, e.g. McDonald's, Burger King;
  • sandwich bars, e.g. Subway, Pret a Manger;
  • coffee shops, e.g. Starbucks, Caffe Nero, Costa.

Look for job vacancies at:

There are many recruitment agencies that specialise in catering and hospitality vacancies, such as Hcareers.

Most large agencies have teams dedicated to hospitality recruitment. Sites dedicated to apprenticeships in the hospitality sector include Apprenticeships.

Most fast food companies advertise vacancies on their websites and you can find all the information you need there for applying for jobs and apprenticeship schemes.

Many restaurants include an observation or shadowing day as part of their recruitment process so candidates can experience working as a manager before they fully commit themselves.

Other selection methods include:

Get more tips on how to find a job, create a successful CV and cover letter, and prepare for interviews.

Professional development

Most larger organisations offer fast-track management programmes, which enable progression to management level within a few years.

Initial induction training will be back to basics, covering aspects such as product knowledge, working as counter service staff and how to use kitchen equipment.

Over the course of the programme, through a combination of on-the-job learning and more formal courses, other training will include:

  • hygiene and health and safety;
  • management and supervisory skills;
  • customer service;
  • financial management.

The programmes are comprehensive and equip trainees with all the key skills needed to succeed in this fast-paced environment.

Training is conducted on-site, in specialist training centres alongside fellow trainee managers, and through self-study. There are few formal examinations. Training programmes are shaped by personal development plans, devised and reviewed by line managers or mentors.

After training, the industry encourages continuing professional development (CPD) and there are numerous courses available to support this.

A suite of five free online learning modules, useful sector information, lists of courses and a CV toolkit to help record and assess CPD are provided by the Institute of Hospitality. Many CPD courses are designed to help managers keep abreast of change. CPD e-learning and development courses for the Institute are also provided by the Open University (OU).

Career prospects

If you join a structured training programme, the usual progression route is to begin at trainee management level, move to assistant manager level and then eventually become a manager. Typically this takes around two years.

Progression through the ranks is positively encouraged and many employers are keen to nurture front-end staff through to management level, as they are already embedded in the culture and operations of the organisation.

The next step for a manager is to a field or area management role, with responsibility for supervising the operations of a number of restaurants.

Beyond this, there are general operational management or consultancy roles, advising the business on how to manage entire functions.

Managers who have extensive experience and considerable collateral may also choose to open their own franchise. Many companies provide excellent support packages and training for potential franchise owners.

The training and experience gained is comprehensive and career moves into other business areas are possible. Some managers may take up head-office positions, for example in customer relations management. Others may move outside their organisation and continue with hospitality management in a related industry or choose to pursue general business management in a different sector.