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Tips and Techniques for Being a Confident and Capable Restaurant Manager
What does the word “management” mean? Look around the Internet and you’ll find many different definitions. Here are three examples of what some have said:
• “The activity of using human and other resources to get work done.”
• “Effective use and coordination of resources such as capital, materials and labor to achieve stated objectives with maximum efficiency.”
• “The process of effectively accomplishing activities with and through others, including the process of setting and achieving objectives through the performance of the five basic management functions: planning, organizing, staffing, directing, and controlling; utilizing human, financial, and material resources.”
When you bring these three definitions together and conclude, as a restaurant manager, you just need to produce results and get the job done! We have a proven three-step process to help managers enjoy results, as detailed below:
STEP 1 – You must control your time and activities first
A study conducted a few years ago found that restaurant managers had an average of 64 unplanned interruptions in a day. This shouldn’t surprise any seasoned restaurant manager, but if you’re new to the business or a first-time manager, it means you’ll need to keep a tight grip on your precious time early in the management game!
As a competent and capable restaurant manager, your first responsibility is to hold yourself accountable for your time and I had to learn this lesson the hard way.
Years ago, as a young manager, I was scheduled to have a 4pm meeting with my General Manager, Dave Dalmadge, and I was put on vacation that day. When that day came, I was miles away from the restaurant and was enjoying my vacation. Around 4:15, I got a call from Dave and he just said to me, “We have a meeting at 4pm today and you’re not here. I have an allotted time for you, so come over as soon as possible” and he hung up.
An hour later, I walked into his office, apologized profusely and said, “Dave, I try to remember every meeting and I rarely forget commitments. How do you seem to remember everything?” He took out a bound book. The cover of the little book said “Daytimer,” and he showed me where he wrote down his schedule and every single commitment he made on the schedule. He said to me, “Kevin, get this system, use it every day, and you’ll never forget anything important.” I couldn’t wait to order the 12 monthly booklets, and found out immediately after using it for a short time :
1. …have never been late for another meeting.
2. …never forget anyone’s birthday (since I insert them throughout the year in 12 small calendars).
3. … is less stressful because I can see what’s coming and I have plenty of time to prepare.
4. … have a written record of what happened and what I accomplished.
5. …can consolidate my personal and professional bookings into one convenient location.
6. … stop being embarrassed by my lack of accountability.
7. …start getting real results in your work and personal life!
I will forever be grateful to Dave for the most important restaurants and the life lessons he taught me – how to hold myself accountable and how to take control of my schedule. Suddenly, with very little work on my own, I started doing the right thing at the right time!
Even though this happened over 35 years ago, I still use a calendar. I now use a 12-month “at a glance” calendar that goes with me wherever I go. This might be a bit old-school compared to using a phone or an Outlook calendar, but it’s a system that works for me, especially since I can drop tickets and other paperwork into that calendar. No matter what system you decide to use, you must take personal responsibility for your own time management, as this is where good management skills start.Good managers do the right thing in the right way at the right time
Step Two – Learn and Apply the Top 10 Traits of Today’s Modern Restaurant Manager
The second step in learning how to be a confident and competent restaurant manager means you know and learn what it takes to be a great manager! Here are 10 of the most important factors that will directly affect your ability to be a top performer!
1. Be responsible. You will never be accountable unless you take responsibility for being on time, completing tasks, and never being late. Use a good calendar system and you will find that you become more responsible in no time!
2. Lead by example. If the napkin falls on the floor, pick it up. Dress for the part – be sharp, neat and clean. Do not chew gum. Don’t yell. Don’t embarrass others publicly. Just know that all eyes are on you and that everything you do is acceptable in the eyes of your employees. Hold to high standards, set the pace and maintain high standards.
3. Make sure your people succeed. Today’s leaders don’t tell their employees to “jump.” They jump right in with their employees, creating a mindset of working “side by side” with them.
4. Competent. Your ability to do anything in a restaurant will boost your confidence. As a manager, you should be able to step in and provide ad hoc help in any area that is being slammed. You should aspire to know more about how each job is done than your employees. If you don’t know how to do something, learn it! Ability to build confidence. You’ll quickly find that confidence inspires trust in your team, so don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty!
5. Lead others to achieve mutually achievable goals. Everyone wants to know what the direction of the team is, what their role is. Articulate goals, roles, standards, benchmarks and key accomplishments, and keep everyone informed! This process helps promote and foster transparency in management style, another desirable trait of a good leader.
6. Keep training. Norman Brinker, founder of many restaurant concepts including Chili’s, has a saying that sticks with me and I’ve seen it borne out over the years. “You’re paid by your profits and promoted by your people.” This means that people development (which means training) needs to happen all the time. Every shift you work is 100% training time for everyone on the team, every moment is a training opportunity.
7. Listen and communicate. There is an opinion that if you are a good listener, you are a good talker! Strive to develop the ability to communicate clearly, listen carefully, and not tolerate rumours.
8. Treat everyone fairly and without intimacy. To treat your employees fairly across the board means that you cannot find yourself in a position of compromise. Don’t find yourself spending late nights with the people you manage because you will soon find that your ability to manage them will be unnecessarily affected.
9. Express empathy and show warmth and kindness. If you want to be an effective manager, you should better understand the perspectives your employees hold when they talk to you. If you are a good listener, warm, approachable, and strive to really understand what is being said, these qualities will take you far in your management journey.
10. Mature. This means being honest and trustworthy, not giving away secrets or rumors, not giving away confidential information, not saying negative things about others, and never finding yourself in a suspicious situation. In this business, integrity means everything.
STEP THREE – USE THE RIGHT TOOLS
STEP 3 Learning how to be a confident and competent restaurant manager means you know how to use the right tools for your job. In fact, you can be a high-quality manager with all 10 characteristics we detailed earlier, but you won’t be productive if you’re not using the right tools for the job. If you work in a multi-unit environment, we provide many of the tools you need. If you work in a single unit or small company environment, you may need to develop your own tools. What are these tools?
1. MBWA – Ambulatory Management. “You can expect what you check” is very true. If you don’t know what’s going on, anytime, anywhere, conceptually, you’re out of control. I know managers who walk a figure-of-eight circle around the premise. I know other people who set alarms and walk inside and outside premises every 20 minutes. No matter what your preference is, you just need it when you need it. That’s why being a high-performance restaurant manager is the job of supermen and superwomen!
2. Camera. We have a client with four restaurants, each with 12 cameras. In the office, there is a row of four huge TV screens, each with 12 camera views. Company owners are able to view activity in 12 views from four locations… 48 views simultaneously. When he sees a problem that needs fixing, he simply picks up the phone and calls the appropriate manager for that particular restaurant. His management system can be called MBSD – Management by sitting. This is rarely the right tool for most managers, but it worked for him!
3. Communication tools. Almost every restaurant today has management logs. This ensures that each shift can communicate with the leader of the next shift. Maintain continuity of information flow. Restaurants without logs, or managers who don’t use logs, are at a disadvantage.
4. Restaurant system. This includes the proper use of temperature records, order guidance, staff time sheets, and all other systems used in restaurants.
5. Technology. Managers who try to avoid using the features that today’s point-of-sale systems can provide are at a disadvantage. Sales mix, workforce reports, sales volumes, customer databases, inventory, costing tools, and many other tools are at your disposal to help you make profitable transitions and operations. A smart manager will quickly become proficient at your restaurant’s POS system.
6. Checklist. This is the most effective way to ensure that what needs to happen actually happens. All positions within the restaurant should have at least one opening and closing list. In the kitchen, multiple lists are used for prep (standard and build levels), ordering (portion and build levels) and many others. If you’re constantly running out of product, it’s probably because you’re not using the correct inventory! Manifests are only valid when used. (Looking forward to what you check) Make sure you follow up as a manager to make sure all checklists are used and completed correctly.
7. Management system. Last but not least include the general system of how shifts are done. Many managers don’t know when they should be doing what! Certain administrative functions will be completed at certain times. Make your life easier by dividing your day into periods you can control.
9am – 11am – Administration and restaurant opening.
11am – 2pm – Shifts on the floor.
2pm – 4pm – Projects, accounting, ordering.
4-5pm – Get ready for dinner. Staff arrive in the afternoon, pre-shift meeting.
5pm – 9pm – Shifts on the floor.
Close at 9pm – close aggressively with as little labor as possible and don’t waste time.
One of the most important aspects of running a restaurant is consistency. Not just in food and beverage, but for you as a manager, consistency means a huge shift in your ability to be consistent. This did not happen by accident. Always use tools the right way.
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