Hisham Tan Abdullah, President of Malaysian Food & Beverages Association, talks about the qualities of a competent F&B Manager, the bright career prospects for the profession and opportunities in new F&B trends.

A good Food & Beverage Manager must be a knowledgeable all-rounder with the ability to multi-task, think creatively and work under pressure. “More importantly he must be intuitive and be able to sense what others are feeling. The stronger his intuition, the stronger a manager he will be,” said Hisham Tan Abdullah, President, Malaysian Food & Beverages Association (MFBEA). Besides that, a committed and disciplined manager will inspire the team to work together to achieve common goals as well as instil good working ethics. Hisham listed the skills a competent F&B Manager should have, which would include leadership, communication skills and critical thinking.

Leadership: A good manager must be experienced enough to lead a team, be able to motivate and inspire his/her team to achieve the common goal.
Communication skills: He must be able to articulate his/her thoughts clearly, be a good listener and able to empathise with the staff and situations, and be able to engage the team in an open and honest way.
Critical thinking: He must be able to see the big picture and yet not lose sight of the small things, be able to make decisions based on good judgment rather than emotions and creatively solve a problem.

Acquiring these skills come with time. As much as a degree in food service management or similar is valuable it’s not enough. For one, managers need mentoring, and with the right mentors amazing leaders will be created. The other is empowerment. All bosses need to empower their managers to make decisions and in the process learn responsibility and accountability.

How has the profession progressed in recent years?
The image of F&B service as a profession has improved tremendously, largely because F&B is big business now. These days, there are major players involved with big investments, expecting big returns. Therefore, demand for professional managers is greater than ever. It is a wonderful profession, and if you are willing to learn, it can be very rewarding.

Are there more responsibilities, with new F&B trends and the increased interest in coffee, for instance?
The interest in coffee is still growing, as seen in the many trendy coffee shops being set up and more types of coffee brought in by new suppliers and distributors. It’s not so much a responsibility as establishing the need. The easiest way is to invest in a coffee machine and trained barista to complement or extend the existing drink menu. The F&B Manager would need to improve his/her knowledge by attending basic courses or doing online research.

A basic Course/Workshop would include some of the following:
SCA (Speciality Coffee Association) Barista Skills

  • Introduction to Coffee
  • Level Foundation
  • Level Intermediate
  • Level Professional
  • Cafe Setup and Business Management

  • Coffee industry
  • Coffee bar operation and management
  • Maintenance and hygiene control
  • How to manage barista/service crew
  • Secret to growing the business
  • What are the employment opportunities for F&B management personnel?
    The employment opportunities are endless. New hotels and stand-alone outlets are mushrooming. Malaysians are no longer limited to only employment in the country. With experience they can work overseas, on a ship, in many other industries including airline, hospital, catering establishment, restaurant chains and even as a consultant and trainer.

    What about advancing to F&B Director?
    A good manager with at least three years of experience can move up to a Director’s position, then to Executive Assistant Manager and finally a General Manager in a typical hotel employment scenario.

    What advice would you give to young people interested in a F&B career?
    The hospitality industry offers a wide range of exciting job opportunities. There is viable employment in travel and tourism, casino management, and various food and beverage industries.
    Just like in any field, there must be passion and a strong sense of self improvement. Whilst it would be advantageous to have a diploma or degree, many general managers today started from bottom up. A young person interested should weigh all options, including working part time during the holidays to gain experience and knowledge.

    What future do you see for them in F&B in this country?
    The food and beverage industry is booming because it is reported that food consumption in Malaysia has been growing at a rapid rate since 2000. As standard of living goes up and Malaysians traveling more, we see diverse restaurants being set up, catering to a more discerning audience who have a long list of wants. The rapid growth of coffee cafes, bakery cafes, finedining restaurants, overseas chain restaurants and food trucks has proven that urban Malaysians are still willing to spend on good food or dine in upscale restaurants. I foresee new trends and new brands coming into Malaysia. I also see many existing restaurants reinventing themselves