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By: Dr. John T. Self

University Foodservice Contract Manager

Providing dining services in a university setting, this operation usually includes a residential dining program (college board plan) in either a simple buffet set-up, or a food court set-up. Food courts may include franchises or licensed concepts from popular fast food outlets or in-house concepts.

Dining services may also encompass retail dining for non-residents, concessions for on-campus sporting events, restaurant-style fine dining for faculty and staff (faculty club), a retail coffee house/brew pub, and on- and off-campus catering at all service levels from coffee drops and breakfasts, to plated formal dinners and receptions.

Salary for a General Manager of Dining Services varies depending upon the total revenue volume of the campus. The larger the scale of campus operations, the more likely that a General Manager (GM) would have a more administrative role and a less hands-on role in daily operations. A Dining Services GM spends a great deal of time working with the front line managers and Department Heads to improve service, forecast coming trends, create marketing initiatives, and develop goals both financial and operational for each department. Creative problem solving skills are beneficial to the position.

Typical career path:
Entry level for front of the house is usually as an Assistant Retail Manager or a Café Manager, moving up to Director of Dining Operations, and then up to General Manager of Dining Services.

A second career path is entry as a Catering Operations Assistant, moving up to Catering Operations Manager, then Catering Director and finally to General Manager of Dining Services.

Continuing upwards would mean a position as a Regional Manager for a group of accounts in a specific geographical area.

Most GM's in university contract services work normal hours. They arrive early in the morning (before 8:30 a.m.) and are home before nightfall (around dinnertime). It doesn't require working until 1:00 a.m. every day.

There are periods when you don't have to work (Christmas break, summer break, spring break, etc.) which are usually paid for managers (whether they have vacation accrued or not). Most GM's only work on weekends when there are high-profile events that require a significant management presence.

Best Part:
University contract dining has the best of all worlds. It gives the General Manager everything a foodservice fanatic could want - a restaurant, a catering company, a retail store, a coffee house/pub, etc. all on the same campus, all on the same day, all the time. Unless there's a problem elsewhere, you can spend your time in the operation that interests you the most on any given day.

Worst part:
Though you can work "normal hours", to run successfully and profitably require an immense time investment. It also requires a tremendous amount of organizational skill to keep all the operations running smoothly and efficiently. There is a great deal of information that needs to be managed on a daily basis to keep the various operations running simultaneously.

Perks and benefits:
Universities aren't active 365 days per year. There are periods when the university is closed, or running at minimum levels (Christmas break, summer break, spring break, etc.)

Based on the account volume and financial performance bonuses are paid to the four senior managers on this account (Usually GM, Exec Chef, Cater. Director, and Retail Director).

About the author:  John T. Self is a lecturer at The Collins School of Hospitality Management at California State Polytechnic University (Cal Poly Pomona). Prior to entering academe, Dr. Self spent fifteen years in the restaurant industry. While in the corporate world, he worked for several chains including overseeing six restaurants with sales of over twenty million dollars. He has also owned three independent restaurants. While at Golden Gate University, he started the partnership with Dalian University of Technology in Dalian, China and is continuing in that involvement at Cal Poly.

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