Daniel Mason, Senior editor
June, 2016

If you're looking for an exciting role in the hospitality sector, a career as a restaurant manager could be perfect for you

There's nothing I love more than being on the floor in the buzz of a busy restaurant

Whether you're employed by an independent restaurant or one of the big chains, it's a challenging and sometimes highly pressured position. Perhaps because of this, it can also be very rewarding and fulfilling.

'There is so much variation within my role, from people management to driving sales to making and serving drinks,' says Maddy Connor, general manager at Las Iguanas in Leeds. 'I get to meet lots of new people, both customers and colleagues.'

Develop your own team

The role of a restaurant manager (or general manager) is to oversee operations and ensure that customers enjoy the dining experience. Your duties may vary depending on the size and type of establishment that you're working in.

Edona Zeka is general manager of the Waterloo branch of burger chain Byron. She says she has been given lots of independence to run her branch as if it were her own business. 'My core focus at Byron is creating, building, and developing my team. We're very passionate about ensuring our teams are engaged, happy and that they look after their customers.'

Don't be fooled by the 'manager' title - you won't spend your week behind a desk. 'As a general manager, I'm never stuck in the office 9am to 5pm,' explains Edona. 'My role is customer-facing and there's nothing I love more than being on the floor in the buzz of a busy restaurant.'

Even with the freedom she's allowed, there's always somebody ready to provide advice or guidance when necessary. 'The level of support I get from everyone is incredible. Anyone you call on jumps to help - from my fellow restaurant general managers to the head office team in London. There's no divide between the office team and the restaurants, which is a refreshing change.'

What does Edona enjoy most about working at Byron? 'While it's a big company and a well-known brand, it feels like an independent. It's very people oriented.'

Likewise, Maddy says that at Las Iguanas she has been able to contribute new ideas, and establish herself within her restaurant and the company as a whole. She adds, 'Our staff have the chance to enter bar or kitchen competitions, with the winner taking home big prizes as well as getting their dish or drink onto our ever evolving menu.'

Opportunities for progression

Making your way up the career ladder to restaurant manager within one of the major chains is a realistic prospect. For example, Maddy started out as a bartender while at university. She went full time when she finished her studies before enrolling on the Las Iguanas manager in training programme.

'For me it was an obvious choice,' she says. 'Even when I was studying I found that Las Iguanas as a brand and an employer really appealed to me on lots of levels. It's such an exciting and rewarding company to be a part of.'

I was always encouraged and supported to develop my skills and to progress in my role

She explains that seeing colleagues advance within the business demonstrated that she could follow in their footsteps. 'I was always encouraged and supported to develop my skills and to progress in my role, to the point where I am now the general manager of the restaurant in which I started nearly nine years ago.'

You will also be rewarded for your efforts. Mike Williams, people director at Byron, says that a group of general managers recently enjoyed a trip to New York after winning a commerciality competition to drive cover growth (increasing the number of customers). And at the end of each quarter, managers are given a budget to take their team out to celebrate success.

Similarly, Danny Smith - engagement ambassador at Las Iguanas - says the company relies on its staff to ensure that it lives up to its Latin roots. 'We offer employees the opportunity to experience the Latin life first hand through competitions and incentives. These include trips to Rio, Cuba and beyond.'

Prizes are on offer through an employee points system, Iguanapoints, which rewards good service and strong performance in your role.

It's fast-paced and busy

So what kind of person are recruiters looking for? Mike says there are five key traits that restaurant managers at Byron must have: charisma, attention to detail, resilience, drive and commerciality. 'Our managers are responsible for ensuring our customers receive excellent service, so that they keep coming back to us.'

He explains, 'From our condiment trays to our menus, we take pride in our appearance and our product, ensuring consistency for our customers across all Byron restaurants. Our managers share these high expectations and encourage this level of attention to detail in others.'

Being adaptable and able to work well under pressure, while still doing things properly, is crucial

And he emphasises, 'Restaurant work is fast-paced and busy. Being adaptable and able to work well under pressure, while still doing things properly, is crucial.'

The key is to be just as comfortable with the business side of the role as well as having people skills. 'We recruit managers who are passionate about people, but also demonstrate strong commerciality,' says Mike.

'They understand that to achieve success they must have an engaged team. They know how to drive sales internally and externally and aren't afraid to try something new to achieve results.'

Danny says that Las Iguanas is an 'extremely people focused' business. 'We pride ourselves on our family culture and have always put our success down to the people that work for us.'

He explains that the aim is to offer a fun, vibrant, exciting and colourful experience. 'We achieve this by ensuring we employ the right people, giving them the support they need to get to where they want to be.'

If you want to work in the hospitality sector and this appeals to you, take a look at the careers websites of some of the big chains for more details of what qualifications and experience they expect.