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How To Manage A Restaurant Staff: The Ultimate Guide

Written by
Caileen Kehayas

A restaurant may have a groundbreaking menu, a renowned chef, a perfected ambiance and a central location. However, a restaurant is nothing without its manager.

A restaurant manager has a few questions to ask everyday.

How can I keep my restaurant staff motivated and happy?

How can I make sure my customers leave your restaurant happy?

How can I ensure my food costs stay reasonable?

How am I expected to get through a day without my restaurant literally burning to the ground?

To answer all of these questions, you need to be a great restaurant manager.

Often, restaurant owners are driven to open their own establishment as a means to showcase their creativity and drive their own success. Little do they know, a litany of things need to happen to open a restaurant. Once the doors open, the job has just begun.

When a brand new restaurant enters the scene, it needs as much nurturing as a newborn baby. Restaurant failure, especially within the first year of operation, can be owed to a number of reasons.

However, one surefire way an owner can keep a number of variables under control is by hiring and maintaining great restaurant management.  

In this article, we will break down what makes a great restaurant manager

The Importance of A Great Restaurant Manager

The Importance of A Great Restaurant Manager

The manager is often the cornerstone to a successful restaurant. A successful restaurant manager requires a killer combination of physical stamina, intellectual prowess and emotional skills in order to succeed.

At first, a restaurant owner might double as a manager in his own restaurant. However, as the business grows or expands, an owner might relieve an ample amount of duties to a dedicated restaurant manager. Typically, a hospitality establishment needs a manager on the floor at all times.

A restaurant manager will, at once, handle employee relations, customer problems and quality control. This is only a small sampling of what falls under the umbrella of a restaurant manager on a daily basis.

Because this position requires such a wide range of competencies, it is crucial to take care in hiring an effective leader.

How to Hire an Effective Restaurant Manager

How to Hire an Effective Restaurant Manager

When hiring a restaurant manager, there is a breadth of skill sets that need to be addressed.

The long hours, physically demanding work and combination of personalities (both in employees and customers) are just part of a restaurant manager’s everyday struggle.

In addition to the technical responsibilities required, the restaurant manager must also possess a deep understanding of the restaurant industry. Most often, restaurant managers will have had a long history working within the hospitality sector.

It is not at all uncommon to see a busser turn into a server and then, eventually, stand as a general manager of the same restaurant. In fact, some of the most renowned restaurateurs started as bussers.

A hospitality veteran makes an ideal manager because she knows all of the elements of a restaurant. As a result, she understands the landscape of the teamwork that needs to come together in order to operate successfully. This experience often allows the manager to have a deep understanding of prioritizing in a fast-paced environment.  

In short, it is almost always wiser to hire a manager that rose up the ranks rather than a manager experienced in other industries. The restaurant and hospitality industry is vastly different from retail or 9-5 office operations.

Always hire your restaurant managers with that in mind.

How to Create a Restaurant Staff from Scratch

How to Create A Restaurant Staff from Scratch

Once the manager is aboard, she needs to address her staff. In the case of a brand new restaurant, she will likely be responsible for hiring an entire restaurant staff. This will include hiring servers, hiring bussers, hiring hosts, hiring sous chefs, and more.

According to restaurateur Danny Meyer, you should keep six core competencies in mind when building a restaurant dream team.

The following qualities crucial to a great restaurant team that meets the “hospitality quotient” are:

Optimistic Warmth

Restaurant team members work long, difficult hours. These hours are often spent in close quarters. Meyer looks for optimistic warmth as a quality of someone who is decidedly not a naysayer. This is a team member who can bring positivity and light, even on the most difficult days.

Intelligence

Rather than regarding a “book smart” person, Meyer describes this sort of intelligence as a curiosity to learn. This is a person who would be open to learning from experience on a daily basis.

Work Ethic

This one is pretty self-explanatory. In addition to being “trainable” at a specific level of competency for a job, Meyer describes this as the type of person who will always look for the best way to do her own job, especially if it thoughtfully excels taught methods.

Empathy & Self-Awareness

Meyer buckets these two competencies together. This is the type of person who is attuned to how others feel. In addition, this person is sensitive to how their actions affect others, whether coworkers or customers. Empathy is a must in hospitality as it helps one to constantly be anticipating needs.

Integrity

This is a core competency in any relationship. Will this person do the right thing, even when nobody is looking?

How to Manage A Restaurant Staff

How to Manage a Restaurant Staff

Some restaurant managers are hired as a replacement for a….not-so-great manager.

As a result, she might inherit a team that is uninspired, unfocused and drained. Motivating a tired team can often prove to be a harder task than hiring an entirely new team.

Motivating a restaurant staff is not all about contests to see who can upsell the most pink lemonades and chocolate mousse pies. A great restaurant manager will take the time to address the problems that exist by listening.

In actually listening and building a new foundation, the new manager can immediately foster a trustful relationship with team members.

There are a few things a new manager can do to build this trusting environment from the start.

A Great Manager Knows All Team Members

From the very beginning, know your team members.

Rather than knowing their first name and job title, find out more about your servers. Do they have kids? A favorite sports team? Manager or not, you spend a huge chunk of your life with your coworkers.

In addition to the personal relationships, getting to know team members better allows a manager to become familiar with their strengths and weaknesses. In this way, a manager will have better insights into how to staff a particular event, who works well together and who might be a good option for advancement (possibly to be a manager themselves!) in the future.

Take the time to actually know your team member and to share service advice. Building friendships in a busy restaurant setting helps morale.

Keeping open lines of communication also allow employees to feel comfortable speaking to the manager. Allowing for candid conversation will prevent many potential problems from every arising.

A Great Manager Leads By Example  

Have you ever had a lazy boss? A lazy manager begets...you guessed it, lazy and unmotivated employees.

A manager who delegates all duties will run into many problems while running a restaurant. A restaurant has too many moving parts to enact a “set it and forget it” management attitude. Maintaining an active surveillance is crucial to make sure things are running correctly and to make room for improvements.

An effective restaurant manager must spend time on the restaurant floor, both during the busiest times and the slowest times. Without this frontline experience, the manager really has no idea what it going on, save for bottom line numbers.

Besides having a crucial understanding of the day-to-day elements of a restaurant, a present boss makes a real impact. A manager who works as hard as her employees is more likely earn respect and loyalty than one who leads with blind authority.

A Great Manager Takes Responsibility

Whether a day yields successes or failures, a good restaurant manager will both acknowledge and address that they belong to the whole team.

On a great day, a restaurant manager could reward the team with something as big as a staff meal or something as simple (but meaningful) as positive recognition for a job well-done.

On a day riddled with failures, instead of pointing figures, a great manager will identify and address the problems in a constructive manner.

Recognition of positive landmarks are just as important as communicating areas of improvement.

How to Manage Restaurant Finances

How to Manage Restaurant Finances

Many aspects of managing restaurant finances will occur within the realm of overhead costs. This can include rent, utilities, food cost and payroll.

Lucky for the modern restaurant manager, there are many software solutions for managing costs. Software makes restaurant management easier by offering solutions for food costs, labor management, payroll processing and even employee training.

Here are some common places a restaurant is likely to hemorrhage money:

Train Restaurant Staff

When training your FOH staff and BOH staff, use the opportunity to instill best practices. Make sure your back of house knows the proper proportions of foods and sauces to use in each dish. Additionally, ensure that your servers and bartenders are well-versed in proper serving amounts and in ordering correctly on your POS.

Keep Track of Labor

One way a great restaurant manager will control cost is in staffing. Specifically, a great restaurant manager will become an expert on how to staff a restaurant for a dead rainy Tuesday night as opposed to staffing it for a Mother’s Day Brunch.

Perform Regular Food Cost Evaluation

Managing food cost is extremely important to a restaurant’s bottom line. Food costing can mean the difference between a failing restaurant and a thriving restaurant. Calculate your food costs in order to identity where you are potentially losing money and where you might be able to save some.

Manage Restaurant Food Waste

Make sure your staff is keeping track of any food waste. Whether an item was burned by the kitchen or ordered incorrectly, it is important to keep track of all food waste. If you can determine a solution to reduce food waste, your bottom line will improve.

In Conclusion

Managing a restaurant is not for the faint of heart.

Proper restaurant management requires one person to wear many hats. This person needs to be a problem-solving, resilient people person who can recognize and remedy their own weaknesses on the spot.

Many problems can be avoided by creating and maintaining an organized operations. Here are just a few ways a restaurant manager can organize their operations to avoid problems.

With that, it only seems appropriate to end on the wise words of Danny Meyer,

“In the end, what’s most meaningful is creating positive, uplifting outcomes for human experiences and human relationships. Business, like life, is all about how you make people feel. It’s that simple, and it’s that hard.”

Food image created by Freepik

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