unfocused shot of restaurant

Can a chef become a General Manager? Yes, and here's how

Can a chef become a General Manager? Yes, and here's how

Sue Bayley our consultant managing the role
Date posted: 25/02/2022

What makes a company a great place to work? We believe it's a mixture of things, one being a culture where people are supported to develop their skills and progress. Since we love hearing career stories, we took the opportunity to speak to Emma, who started at M&B as a chef. She has since grabbed every promotion we've waved in front of her and is now the General Manager at The Wheatsheaf Inn in Chester.

Emma's journey from back-of-house to front-of-house is proof that there's no set career path at M&B. Whatever direction you want to steer it in, we'll help you get there. Check out her story below:

When did you join M&B, and why?

I joined in September 2016 as a chef, having returned to work from maternity leave a few months before. I wanted a progressive kitchen career, but I was working for an M&B competitor at the time and felt there wasn’t much scope for progression. My husband had recently made the jump to M&B, so it seemed like an obvious decision to follow him.

Did you always see yourself working in the kitchen?

I settled into my routine of being in a new job and a mum of two, but what I really wanted was to be back in a management role. I quickly worked my way up in the kitchen, and before long, I was supervising. My Retail Business Manager (RBM) encouraged me to push for a Kitchen Manager role, but my husband was one, and I knew our hours wouldn't work. That's when she came up with the idea of a District Trainer (DT) role. I agreed, started preparing for the interview, and soon I was completing the training and helping across the district.

Meanwhile, an Assistant Manager (AM) position came up at my site, and I'd been in the same role at another chain before having my children, so I'd known what it takes to be a successful AM. As AM and DT, I led the training for six remodels, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I also became part of the hot housing team for our district. It was an amazing experience having an input in our brand standards and demonstrating them to sites that needed support.

What was next for you?

While working with other General Managers (GMs), I got a taste for the role and decided this was my next step. I started doing small holds for development and then began holding my first big site one week before the first Covid lockdown. That was a spanner in the works, but we reopened in July, and I held this site until the new manager was appointed. After several months, I heard of a GM vacancy at a site I was keen on. After a three-month hold there, I was signed off as the new GM.

I also began my apprenticeship during this time, after some encouraging conversations with my lifetime trainer. Having come through the hardest Christmas ever, I am now going through end-point assessment (EPA) for my apprenticeship.

Did you find any challenges moving between back-of-house and front-of-house?

Not really. I think it's good to have experience in both, and I was fortunate enough to pick it up pretty quickly. You just have to be more guest focused when you're out front, which means you can have a bit more fun back in the kitchen.

Can you tell us more about your apprenticeship?

I'm midway through my Level 4 Hospitality and Retail Management apprenticeship. I'll admit that it has been challenging due to Covid delaying my progress and the furlough scheme meaning that I've had several trainers. But, the modules have run largely parallel to my Area Manager training, so that's been helpful. The most challenging part has to have been juggling managing a new site throughout a Covid Christmas with the business improvement project I needed to complete for my EPA. But I did it!

Is there anyone who stands out for the support they’ve given you?

I've always been able to ask for help or new opportunities from all the GMs, RBMs and Trading Partners (TPs). Generally, anyone I've come across has always been willing to help. To be honest, there isn’t just one person who stands out because I have worked with so many fantastic people across all the M&B brands. It's the people and the hard work they put in that make this such a great company to work for - our businesses don't get named Pub of the Week for nothing.

Do you have any advice for someone interested in rising the ranks at M&B?

Take each role in your own time and strive to know everything! You never will, but that's okay. There is a hugely diverse support team across M&B, and somebody will know. Just ask!

Who would be your dream celebrity to walk through the Wheatsheaf Inn’s door, and why?

Tom Hanks - I just love so many of his films, and he comes across as down to earth and funny. It would be interesting to see what chats we would have over a pint.

Find out what a career with M&B could look like for you

Now you know that there are no limits to a hospitality career with M&B, what are you waiting for? Browse our kitchen team jobs, management jobs or explore apprenticeships with M&B.

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