How to Manage a Restaurant: 13 Things You Need to Master

If you’re managing a restaurant, you’re tasked with keeping the customers and the staff happy while also making sure everything materially runs smoothly. You don’t have to be born with these skills, but you’re definitely going to want to master them.

1. Be Proactive

As the manager, a lot of responsibilities are falling on your shoulders. One of the most important things you can do is always be staring down the road ahead of you, trying to anticipate what will need to happen in the future.

Is a bunch of your staff going back to college in the fall? It’s never too early to start looking for new line cooks and servers. Are there menu items that are seasonal or that you’re going to stop serving? You’re going to want to update the menu ASAP.

This applies to every aspect of your job description. Are you running low on to-go containers or other inventory? Is it time to replace your unreliable POS system? Keeping yourself one step ahead and anticipating future needs is how you feel on top of the ball rather than feeling like its constantly running you over.

2. Make Hiring Quality Staff a Priority

Hiring staff is a time-consuming and expensive process no matter what you do. That’s all the more reason to make it count.

In the restaurant business, high staff turnover is normal. That being said, you might notice some restaurants have much for frequent turnover than others. This is inefficient, creates a negative cultural atmosphere, and is definitely felt in the customer experience.

Do yourself a favor and thoroughly read applications and check personal and professional references. Have a list of prepared questions for the interview and for their references. If you want to go above and beyond, run a background check.

3. Make Retaining Quality Staff a Priority

Now that you’ve put the work to hire awesome people for both the front and back of the house, make it a priority to keep them. Hiring an expensive, time-consuming, and frustrating process, so you’ll want to do it as infrequently as possible.

Not only that, but having a core group of staff that have been there a while, love their job, and love each other is an important aspect of attracting new high-quality workers. It’s amazing how much the people you work with can affect how much you like your job, particularly in the restaurant business.

Remember, you’re not just building a staff, you’re helping to sculpt a culture. Make it one that prospective employees want to be a part of. The staff and the staff’s culture help to create the experience that customers are there for.

4. The Balancing Act of Overseeing Staff

Managing a restaurant staff is a delicate balancing act. You need to be firm but approachable, nice but not too buddy-buddy, and authoritative but not a tyrant.

One of the keys to restaurant management is leading by example. Don’t expect your staff to follow rules that you don’t abide by yourself. Otherwise, you will have a team of people that deeply resent you.

Not only that, but work performance will suffer and you can expect to find some of your staff breaking the rules, too.

One of the necessary management skills is facilitating teamwork. Encourage your employees to help each other out and train them in multiple positions so they can fill in if somebody’s in the weeds.

Another important part of overseeing staff is to always be fair. Whether it comes to wages, stations on the line, or server table sections, never play favorites.

Of course, you should reward employees who are doing a great job. But you should never give extra responsibilities or rewards to employees who don’t deserve it. This will surely breed animosity.

It’s important that you don’t join a clique in the restaurant. You’re the boss, not a buddy.

5. Learn By Doing

An important way to learn the ropes of any restaurant is to intimately understand each role. Before you start barking orders about how to reorganize a station on the line, spend a few shifts working the line to see how it flows.

This is particularly true if you’re coming into a restaurant from the outside and you didn’t work your way up. Staff who know the place like the back of their hand will be quick to shoot down your ideas for changes when it’s clear you aren’t familiar with the whole operation.

6. Pay Attention to Your Online Reviews

Looking at reviews online is frequently how people decide what restaurant they’re going to eat at. When a customer tries a new restaurant, they’re gambling with their money, their time, and their meal. Using online reviews helps them make a safe bet.

(Gently) encourage pleased customers to leave a positive review online or to share their positive experience on social media. Respond to negative reviews personally and thoughtfully.

7. Focus on Customer Satisfaction

It doesn’t matter how amazing your menu is if customers regularly leave unsatisfied. The world is filled with people who are looking to complain about things. But if your customers are consistently displeased you’re going to want to take it seriously.

Have a system in place for customer complaints, like giving out gift cards. Print customer review forms and ask for your customers’ feedback. You might learn a lot and get some great ideas that way!

8. Always Be Improving the Customer Experience

It’s crucial to remember that the quality of the food is only one piece of the customer experience puzzle. People don’t eat out just for the food, a lot of times they eat out for the experience.

The staff the customer interacts with, the cleanliness of the place, the interior design and the overall vibe are all going to factor into the customer experience. Don’t let a customer’s otherwise amazing dining experience be soured by a filthy bathroom or a server with a bad attitude.

9. Invest in Advertising

Make sure you have a budget for advertising and choose advertising avenues that make sense for your business. In order to do this, you’ll want to understand your demographics, peak sales periods, and general industry trends.

10. Know Your Software Like the Back of Your Hand

No list of necessary management skills would be complete without mentioning how important it is to know how to use POS system in restaurant.

Put in the time upfront to learn everything you need to know about your software. This will save you time and embarrassment when you’re standing in front of a customer or your employees.

11. Hone Your Problem-Solving and Conflict-Resolution Skills

Busy shifts at a restaurant can be stressful and emotions can run high. Huge problems can appear immediately out of nowhere. Dishwasher’s broken? Ran out of bacon? Line cook called out again? You’ve got to keep your wits about you and your feet on the ground.

In addition to keeping the operation running materially, if you manage a restaurant you’ve got to manage the human issues that can arise as well. Emotions can run high in such a face-paced, high-stress environment.

No matter how good of a job you’ve done creating a solid team, some of your staff will inevitably butt heads. Familiarize yourself with conflict-resolution skills and help them work through their issues in a calm, fairway.

12. Maintain A Positive Attitude

One of the crucial aspects of how to be a good manager is to set the tone for your staff with your attitude. If you’re grumpy, whiney, and irritable about being at work or problems that are occurring, you can bet your staff will be too.

If you have a positive attitude it’s much more likely your employees will as well. Positive leadership is known to help create a more productive environment and happier employees.

Don’t take out your frustration on your staff even if you’re in the weeds. Learn how to bring levity to the situation when things get tense.

13. Take Care of Yourself

Restaurant management is not for the faint of heart. That being said, don’t be a martyr. It’s easy to burn yourself out in this industry.

Remember that the restaurant can’t thrive if you aren’t. Take time off if you need to, and tend to your physical and mental health needs.

Managing a Restaurant is a Rewarding Challenge

Maybe it isn’t for everyone, but there are definitely some people who thrive in restaurant management. Now that you’ve learned these 13 important aspects of how to manage a restaurant, you can make an educated decision as to whether or not it’s the right role for you.

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