General managers of fast food restaurants are responsible for the success of establishments under their charge, and may report directly to the chief executive officer of their corporation. They have the assistance of other managers such as those in sales and finance, as well as administrative staff. They earn their salaries by setting goals and developing strategies to meet those goals.
General managers of fast food restaurants typically have bachelor’s or master’s degrees in business administration, liberal arts or culinary science. But the educational background is secondary to experience, since many rise through the ranks, often from entry-level crew positions. This enables them to learn the operations of their industry from the inside. These professionals also require good communication skills, leadership, decisiveness, good business judgment and the ability to motivate subordinates.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that as of May 2010, general managers of all industries made a mean $54.38 per hour or $113,100 per year. For fast food restaurants, they earned $33.03 per hour or $68,700 per year. These amounts were higher than the average pay of all management occupations of the industry, which was $25.18 per hour or $52,370 per year. They fell in the middle range of salaries of specific manager types. For example, higher wages went to chief executives at a mean $65.60 per hour or $136,460 per year, and financial managers at $46.35 per hour or $96,410 per year. Lower wages went to food service managers at a mean $22.15 or $46,070 per hour, and sales managers at $30.22 per hour or $62,870 per year.
Corporate benefits for general managers form part of their salaries but vary according to company. The perks at McDonald’s are typical, starting with medical, vision and dental plans. A flexible spending account allows the savings of pretax dollars for uncovered health care and day care expenses. Life, accidental death and dismemberment, and short-term and long-term disability coverage are also included at no cost to employees. Travel also grants accident insurance. Base pay is often supplemented with both short-term and long-term bonuses as well as recognition programs. Managers can choose from different company cars, supplied for both business and personal use, with paid insurance, maintenance and repair. Other benefits include paid vacations and nine holidays, an extra week of leave on certain anniversary years, an eight-week sabbatical for every 10 years of full-time service, and assistance for education, child care and charitable contributions.
An example of a general manager’s career in the fast food industry is James Collins, who is vice president and general manager of the Florida Region of McDonald’s. He began in one of the company’s restaurants as a high school crew member who put lettuce, pickles and cheese on hamburgers. Eventually, he managed that restaurant and was eventually promoted to directing operations for all restaurants in a specific region. He is now in charge of the largest region in McDonald’s, as of 2011, with 850 locations topping annual sales of $2 billion.