Whether you’re a restaurant manager, an owner, or both, you undoubtedly have a lot on your plate. You need to manage inventory and set par levels. Juggle staff dynamics and manage employee scheduling. Provide top-notch customer service and be somewhat of a marketing and PR virtuoso. And let’s not forget about keeping a clean establishment up to code and a fluid kitchen operation that delivers high-quality food.

Your day is overflowing with numerous tasks, and it’s easy to forget about working on your self-improvement and management style. Finding ways to improve your leadership skills will undeniably have a positive effect on the business.

Here are five practical restaurant management tips that will set up you up for success.

1. Lead By Example

We put this one first because it’s the most important. When you’re in a management position, employees watch and emulate you. If you want your staff to perform at a high level, you need to perform at a high level to set the standard.

If you want servers to keep an eye on the food window in case the expeditor falls behind or needs an extra set of hands, show them how it’s done by doing it yourself on a busy Friday night. Actions speak louder than words, and your actions will speak volumes about your leadership abilities.

2. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate  

Any excellent restaurant manager is also an excellent communicator. You communicate with your crew, your customers, your vendors (suppliers), and other service providers. Each exchange is taking on different forms, mediums, and styles to achieve the best results. You’re a communication wizard, and you probably don’t even realize it.

However, in the midst of the day-to-day hustle, it’s easy to forget the basics. For customers, pleasant greetings followed by a rundown of the daily specials are a great way to make a first impression. And don’t forget to make a lasting one with attentive service and farewells when they exit.

When it comes to vendors, place orders and pay invoices on time. If you forget to account for a big party you have coming up this weekend, don’t make your lack of planning the vendor’s emergency. Also, make sure the drivers know the delivery protocol such as special entrances and preferred drop off times.

As for your staff, communicate policies and procedures so employees can understand and follow protocols. Pre-shows are a great way to let the crew know about daily specials. Items are eighty-sixed for the day or any large reservations that will be coming in the eatery today.

3. Hire the Right People

Great communication will also help you during the hiring process. In a recent Restaurant Technology Industry Report, 36 percent of restaurant operators say that staffing is their biggest challenge. Followed by 47 percent of bar managers who echoed the same sentiments.

So, if you’re hiring new employees, rule #1, clearly communicate the position requirements and expectations in the job posting. As part of the interview process, find out of they’re comfortable learning new skills (more on that next), have a passion for food, or business acumen that you can leverage to your advantage.

Is your new server also putting themselves through college to become a teacher? Instead of putting together a lesson plan, have them develop an employee training plan. Is your hostess taking a digital marketing class? Let them take over your social media account for the month.  

Chances are, the employees you hire don’t just aspire to be a hostess or part of your waitstaff for the rest of their lives. More than likely, another path led them to your front door. Find out what it is and build on it.

Rule #2, never hire employees based on an interview and conversation alone. Like an audition for a Broadway show, let them try out for the position. Give them a few breakfast, lunch, or dinner shifts to see how they perform.  

4. Cross-Train Employees

Hiring people that have a desire to learn new skills will also help you when it comes to cross-training employees. Training employees to perform a variety of roles in your restaurant will not only give you more scheduling flexibility, but it can also be a lifesaver in a pinch.

For example, let’s say you cross-train a server to work behind the bar. Not only is the server learning a new skill (mixology), but when your scheduled bartender calls out on a Saturday night, you can pull the server from their section and put them behind the bar.

You then divvy up that server’s section among the remaining staff on the floor, and voila! You’re running the shift with one less employee and still operating like clockwork.

5. Be Innovative

While operating like clockwork can be a good thing like in the example above, don’t drown in the stagnant waters of consistency when it comes to other areas of your business. There are always ways you can improve procedures and processes to make your restaurant more efficient.    

Technology has made a significant impact on an industry that dates back to the end of the eighteenth century. It’s also a key factor for driving restaurant efficiencies – don’t be afraid to embrace it.

For example, a modern point of sale system may also have a pay-at-the-table feature for the ease and convenience of customers. The added functionality can help shave off valuable minutes dropping checks.  The result is a faster table turnover rate which can lead to increased revenue because you’re able to move customers in and out more efficiently.

And it’s not just front of house improvements that can make your restaurant more efficient and have a positive impact on your bottom line. From an operational perspective, an area where you can automate business procedures like employee payroll or other accounting processes, do it. Embrace technology that will make your life easier, more efficient, and can help you increase sales.

The Bottom Line

Restaurant management is a tough profession. On a busy Saturday night, it can feel like you’re the conductor of a freight train traveling 100 mph. In an industry that doesn’t slow down for anyone, make sure you slow down and take the time to focus on these five fundamentals to help make you a better restaurant manager.

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