When it comes to managing restaurants, there are many things that are thrown at you. It’s a delicate balancing act where you have to decide what’s important, what can wait until tomorrow and making sure that the restaurant is performing.
Everyone is going to want more of your time. The owner or operator of the restaurant is going to want you to cut expenses, grow the bottom line and make sure that every customer comes back time and time again.
The employees are going to want you to be the leader, to lead by example and be the problem-solver. They will also want you to accept their every scheduling conflict in hopes that life works that way.
The customers are going to want you to check-in on them, provide exceptional service— even when chaos ensues. They expect you to be a beacon of normality in a world that seems to be getting worse year after year.
But there’s a trait that most people forget to take into consideration or discuss when it comes to looking for a restaurant manager.
The one trait that’s NEEDED to succeed in this business, is called: Emotional Intelligence.
The biggest challenge that the industry has is that it’s an incredibly high-stress industry. When there is a waiting list of two hours, the line is 15-20 tickets deep and employees are all super stressed... how the manager responds to these situations is crucial to the success of your restaurant.
The difference boils down to reacting versus responding to the stressful situations.
Reacting to situations is utilizing your bare instincts. Depending on how you have reacted to those situations in the past— whether it was in past experiences or past training— you will fall back into that same pattern.
The reason why this is destructive to your restaurant is because these instincts could be destructive to your operations or something that doesn’t follow suit to your company’s culture.
That’s an issue.
When it comes to high-stress situations, you cannot always see how someone would perform in actuality at the time of the interview or even at a stage.
Responding to these situations looks quite different. Instead of relying on pure instincts, it allows the manager to take a step back and analyze the situation as a whole to respond in the best way for the business and for the team.
If your team sees your manager freaking out, it will cause the productivity of the whole team to sink and fall further down the rabbit hole of thinking the rush will never end.
The same thing happens when your manager has to deal with high-stress situations such as terminating an employee who works super hard and is a great person but just can’t hit the restaurant’s standards. The truth is, it doesn’t matter how poorly the employee is doing, having to terminate someone is very stressful.
There will be days when it seems like the whole world is conspiring against you and it’s important to have people on your team who will only boost morale and make your team feel comfortable, no matter the present situation.
That’s an asset that your restaurant not only needs to succeed, but should be a skill that is taught at your restaurant.
How Can You Train Emotional Intelligence?
Being able to control your emotions in any situation is the greatest asset that you can have. You cannot count on people to have it, but just like with any skill, it’s something that can be taught over time.
A common question that I get asked is how can you train someone on how to respond to situations? The first thing that I always say is that you need to create a positive environment that thrives on learning.
Without this, it doesn’t matter what happens because you’ll never get the team of your dreams and you’ll set a precedent that your restaurant doesn’t care about the development of their team.
Now that that’s out of the way, here are a couple great tips on how to train Emotional Intelligence:
1. On-The-Job or In-The-Moment Training
On-the-job or in-the-moment training is essential to increasing your manager’s emotional intelligence. When a stressful shift happens, it’s important that you are there with your manager to see how they handle situations. If they start getting overwhelmed, it’s important to stop them for a moment.
Show them what it looks like to assess the situation when there is so much chaos around. Point out the things that you look for, how to best support the team, and why you are making those decisions. Once they were able to take a break and were shown the things to pay attention to, they will become empowered to handle these high-stress situations on their own.
Once the shift is over, sit down and talk them through the situation. Why you stopped them at that moment and the emotions you went through to respond to the situation instead of just reacting. The key to this type of training is always in the follow-up.
2. Online Training or Seminars
There are quite a few programs that focus on emotional intelligence. None that are truly restaurant focused, but it doesn’t have to be restaurant focused. There are plenty of inexpensive courses online that you can purchase for your management team. This way, they have an understanding of their emotions and shows that you understand that this industry can be very stressful.
By providing them with a learning tool, you are showing them that you understand what’s important and you want them to succeed in that position. A great way to boost morale is to also send your management team to a seminar on emotional intelligence and then ask them what they learned while they were there.
Learning retention is increased exceptionally when the person has to relay information or teach the subject on it. If they are just sent to a seminar and never discuss what they learned, they’ll forget most of it in a short period of time.
The last thing that you can do is in your management training, have a section where you role-play the different situations. Create a high-stress situation and have things “break” while having challenges arise.
This will allow you to see what they are like in real-time. Emotions are just states that people feel so when people feel stressed, what is their current thought process? What emotions are they feeling and how would they respond with this type of situation?
At the end of the day, emotional intelligence is improved over time. It’s an on-going process so it needs to be a part of your initial training and your development track. Make it a monthly conversation when you check in with your management team. Listen to other employees that report to the manager and get feedback from them.
When all is said and done, you need a manager that can be in control even when it looks like nothing else is in control. Your team will thank you, your customers will thank you and so will your operations as a whole.
By Andrew Carlson, Industry Expert