Role demands people skills

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 July, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 July, 2010, 12:00am

As you sit comfortably in a restaurant, enjoying good food and impeccable service, you are likely to be blissfully oblivious to the role of the food and beverage (F&B) service manager, who makes sure that all guests leave with a smile.

'An F&B service manager is the person in charge of the restaurant,' says Kenneth Wai, area director for human resources at Island Shangri-La, Hong Kong.

They have to ensure the quality of customer service, and food and beverages, manage the team and deliver financial results.

Wai says F&B service managers are expected to know restaurant operations inside out.

They should be well versed in food and wine, and understand the kitchen and related processes, including different types of cooking methods.

Nicholas Liang, the hotel's assistant director of food and beverage, says it is crucial for F&B service managers to love being with people and enjoy engaging them - often a born trait.

They should also be equipped with good management skills, Liang says. 'It's important to motivate the team, train them up and take the best out of every member - that's what it takes to be a strong manager.'

F&B service managers typically begin their careers as service associates who learn basic restaurant operations and receive training in fundamentals, such as polishing cutlery, folding napkins and manning the pantry area - skills that Liang says may look simple, but can be challenging.

The next step up is to become a service leader before moving on to the position of service manager. The process will take six to eight years, depending on the type of restaurant.

For instance, it may take longer for service associates to reach the top of a fine dining restaurant as opposed to a casual eatery. An F&B service manager's salary ranges from HK$25,000 to HK$30,000 a month, according to years of experience and restaurant type.

Quality service

F&B service managers should be able to enhance customer service and offer an engaging experience to guests.

This is achieved through anticipating and recognising the needs of customers, and being flexible in serving them.

Kenneth Wai, of Island Shangri-La, looks for those who embody the company's values, including respect for one another, humility, sincerity, selflessness and being helpful.

Passion and attitude are just as important

F&B service managers are expected to have obtained a higher diploma or a degree in hospitality management.

Some service managers, who began their careers as service associates, study part-time as they climb the career ladder.

In Hong Kong, the Chinese University and Polytechnic University offer undergraduate courses in hospitality management, while the Vocational Training Council awards higher diploma qualifications.

While academic qualifications are preferred, it is equally - if not more - important for job candidates to have the right attitude and be passionate about F&B service.