What's in a day?
It's impossible to pigeon-hole the role of contract catering general manager. That's because contract catering is in all sorts of places - city offices, North Sea oil rigs, race-tracks, museums, schools, universities, hospitals, you name it. So you could find yourself in a job managing a fine-dining executive staff restaurant, feeding thousands in a stadium, or running glamorous events. The other quirk is that you'll be based with the client company and you'll run the restaurant as a separate unit on their behalf.
Key responsibilities include:
- Building a strong working relationship with the client
- Managing the catering contract
- Meeting the client's needs as well as your financial targets
- Leading your F&B team and setting standards
- Liaising with the client
- Monitoring the quality of the food and service
- Recruiting and training staff – depending on the type of contract
What sort of hours will I work?
Contract catering is blessed with more sociable working hours than the rest of hospitality. In a business & industry contract, you'll work 9am-5pm five days a week plus occasional weekends or evenings for functions. In the education sector, you could find yourself working even shorter hours.
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The best bit about being a contract catering general manager
- It'll prepare you for running your own business
- You'll develop skills in HR, accounts, food, and health and safety.
- Standards at some contracts rival Michelin-star restaurants
The inside track … Toby Hartley, general manager at BaxterStorey's British Medical Association contract, says: "I found hotels too regimented, but contract catering gives me the chance to make a difference. It's broad and diverse, and I love the people development side of it."
And the worst bit?
Contract catering is a fiercely competitive sector of the industry, so you may find yourself caught between keeping the client happy, meeting your budget and beating competition from the high street.
What skills do I need?
- Leadership: you'll be running the show (with some support from head office)
- Confidence: you'll need to be a decision-maker who can use initiative to solve problems
- Number crunching: you'll have to deliver on the financial targets you set
- Communication: you need to guide your team so they provide a level of food and service that keeps the client happy
- Organisation: you'll need to prioritise duties
What qualifications do I need?
You can work your way up by training on the job, or fast-track by getting any of the following qualifications under your belt:
- HND in hotel and catering management
- Degree in hotel and catering management or hospitality management
- Diploma in hospitality management
- NVQ or BTec qualifications
Who would it suit?
Contract catering is competitive and companies rely on winning contracts from rival firms for their success. Needless to say, then, employers are looking for business-savvy go-getters who can operate at a strategic level yet motivate their team and keep the client sweet.
What sort of salary can I expect?
The UK average is about £31,400 to £35,000, but some of the larger contracts will command significantly more.
Where can I go from here?
The world is your oyster. You could move on to become operations or regional manager, start your own contract catering company or take your skills abroad to an international hotel or cruise ship.
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