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If you've ever enjoyed a fine meal in an elegant restaurant where every detail was perfect — the food, the service, the decor, the ambience — you can probably thank the behind-the-scenes manager. Or, in some restaurants, the manager may actually thank you!

Quality management skills learned at culinary arts school

Culinary schools provide many degree options, including restaurant management. Quality service at a restaurant or dining establishment often depends on quality management. A culinary school degree can provide you with the management skills you need to be successful.

Eating can mean many things to many people, and what they want from a dining experience dictates where they eat when they eat out: fast food, themed buffets, dinner theaters, or haute cuisine. They may all be different, but they also have one thing in common — management. You've probably been in a place where the management was either very good or very bad and if you're like most people, the quality of your experience did not go unnoticed.

In any business, the quality of service is usually a reflection of the management's attitude and skill, and in the restaurant business, this is especially obvious. This holds true whether you're at Le Cirque or McDonald's. You will know if the restaurant is well managed from the moment you walk through the door. If your food is bad, the bathrooms are dirty, or your waiter has a bad attitude, chances are the manager is not on the ball.

Cooking schools develop all-purpose restaurant managers

Restaurant management is a career that goes far beyond providing good food. While your love for food may be what propels you into culinary arts school, once you get a position in management, cooking will very likely be low on your duty roster. To run the restaurant that people will rave about, you must learn to manage every aspect with panache.

You can expect to be an HR manager of sorts: hiring, firing, and training your staff — and supervising them on their performance. You'll need to be proficient in OSHA regulations and health department requirements: ensuring proper maintenance, cleanliness, and safety standards. You can also expect to be involved with payroll and recordkeeping — at the very least, you'll be the one to sign off on it. Of course, your food expertise from cooking school will come in handy as well since you'll also be involved with overseeing food inventory, ordering food, and selecting menus. But above all else, your ultimate responsibility is to ensure customer satisfaction so people will return again and again.

More than likely there will be assistant managers and head cooks to help you with various duties, but in the food service industry, long hours are pretty standard, with an average workday of 12 to 15 hours.

Culinary school management degree can put you in good position

With all that's required of a restaurant manager, it's probably not surprising to know that top managers often hold bachelor's degrees in hospitality or restaurant management and are often recruited right out of two- and four-year degree programs at culinary schools. These types of programs tend to have a more academic slant, and provide coursework and training that extends beyond the kitchen into management, human resources, accounting, and leadership.

Even with a degree in hand, many businesses, such as chain restaurants, will likely put you through further paces in a corporate management training program that covers all the aspects of managing their restaurants through class work and on-the-job training.

Make sure you've developed self-discipline, initiative, leadership, and good communication skills during your time in cooking school because you will need them both to get hired and to do the job well. As trained customer service professionals, top restaurant managers are often very polished, educated, and great with people. They are masters of public relations and social graces, with both their staff and their customers.

Many job options for restaurant managers
High-end restaurants and more expensive locales pay restaurant managers more, but on average, you can expect to pull down a salary somewhere in the $35,000 to $40,000 dollar-a-year range. However, without at least an associate degree, you'll need to work your way up the food chain to the position of restaurant manager, particularly in a higher-end venue where salaries can get above $60,000.

Not everyone gets to be top dog in the food service and restaurant business, but there are plenty of opportunities in a variety of places. Less sophisticated spots, such as fast food places, small family restaurants, and school cafeterias all require a manager — and regardless of the prices on the menu, they all require a good manager who can turn even the most mundane of eateries into a dining experience!