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Become a Catering Manager: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Find out how to become a catering manager. Research the education and training requirements, and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in catering management.

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Should I Become a Catering Manager?

Catering managers handle all aspects of a company's catering business, including selling to and maintaining relationships with clients, preparing menus and overseeing department finances. They need to interact daily with both customers and the employees under them.

Catering and other food service managers can work at many food establishments, from chain restaurants and fast food companies to upscale dining restaurants. Self-employment opportunities are often available, but the job typically comes with long hours spent standing and walking. Food service managers also usually must work weekends and evenings.

Career Requirements

Degree Level High school diploma or equivalent (minimum), though employers may prefer managers with formal education
Degree Fields Hospitality or food service management
Certification Voluntary certifications available
Experience 1-5 years in the foodservice industry and 2-5 years of management
Key Skills Strong customer service, leadership, organizational and problem-solving skills, detail-oriented, basic computer skills, physical strength and stamina
Salary (2014) $48,560 is the median annual salary for food service managers

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, CareerBuilder.com, O*Net Online.

Step 1: Complete a Formal Training Program

Job postings on Careerbuilder.com showed that, although a high school diploma is typically the minimum education requirement for catering manager jobs, employers may prefer candidates with an associate's or bachelor's degree in a related field. For example, hospitality management programs prepare students to work in the food service and travel industries through courses like food preparation, wine and beverage management and marketing. Often, these programs include courses specifically on catering.

Alternatively, schools offer certificate programs specifically in catering management that may help with job prospects. Coursework can include menu design, food preparation and accounting. These programs can be attended by students who aren't interested in pursuing degrees, but who wish to earn recognition for their abilities in food service.

Success Tip:

  • Take advantage of opportunities to gain practical experience. Most hospitality management programs incorporate some sort of hands-on training into their curricula. This experience may come in the form of an internship, practicum or learning laboratory requirement. Students should use this time wisely to gain knowledge and confidence in real-world settings, and seek practical training when it is not required.

Step 2: Gain Work Experience

The BLS states that food service managers most commonly advance by gaining experience in their profession. Future catering managers might start as servers in a catering company or work in a kitchen preparing food. By gaining an understanding of the operations of the catering industry, they prepare themselves to advance to positions of more responsibility.

Success Tips:

  • Stay current with food trends. Aspiring catering managers should keep up with current trends in the culinary world, since such knowledge is sought by some employers. They may do so by reading industry publications and interacting with other professionals in the field.

Step 3: Obtain Certification

Certification is voluntary, but some employers specifically search for individuals who have been certified by ServSafe, an organization that tests and regulates food preparation safety nationwide. Another certification that may give candidates a competitive edge in the job market is offered by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. The Foodservice Management Professional (FMP) designation is awarded to individuals who complete the necessary coursework, pass a written examination and meet experience requirements.

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