4 Things to Know Before You Take That Management Position

By Andrew Carlson, Foodable Industry Expert

Restaurant management is probably one of the most demanding but rewarding jobs that are in the industry. When you don't have understanding of the job or past experience, it can definitely be overwhelming.

The restaurant industry is one of those that just never slows down. It seems like you're bouncing around from problem to problem and simply setting out fires, so by the end of the day, you're completely exhausted. Then, you have other days where things are all falling into place, customers are happy, your staff is happy, and you leave feeling energized. It makes it all worth it.

But before you take that restaurant management position, here are four things that you should know.

1. You Set the Tone of the Restaurant

Whether you like it or not, your attitude affects your team’s attitude. The tone of the restaurant for your shift will be affected by how you walk into your shift, how you communicate with your team, and your overall attitude of the day.

It doesn't matter how crazy the restaurant is or how big your workload is. The moment you walk in, your team is going to look toward you to lead them. If you walk in with a negative attitude, you'll definitely impact your team negatively and the day will just drag on.

But if you can come in excited about the impact that you and your team will make, you have the secret to setting your team up for success.

2. You Will Not Always Be Liked

If you're promoted into management after working in a restaurant for some time, things can be challenging in terms of holding your friends accountable. You were in the trenches with them and now you have to position yourself as their boss instead of only their co-worker. That can be tough for first-time managers.

The biggest thing that you have to understand is that, as a manager, you must understand the mission and goals of the restaurant you're managing. You must embody their core values and uphold the policies of the restaurant.

Seems pretty basic, right? Of course, the expectations of a restaurant manager mean upholding the policies and procedures of the restaurant, but just because it’s basic knowledge, doesn’t mean that it’s ever easy.

Managing people and their personalities is one of the most difficult things that you can do. As a manager, it’s vital that you earn the respect of your team, so when you have moments when they don’t like you, they’ll still respect your decision to uphold the policies in place. Respect will always outweigh likability.

3. Problems Are Never Solved in the Back Office

Have you ever had one of those managers that, no matter what was going on in the restaurant, would always be hanging out in the office? Most times, they were in the office with the door locked, saying that they had to do “administrative paperwork,” but what if they were just hiding out checking Facebook or texting their friends?

That is poor management and leadership. No manager should ever be in the office during customer hours. Now, this is different if the manager is on their break and someone is in charge of handling the floor while the manager is out. But if there are customers in your dining room, it’s very important that you’re circulating throughout the dining room, checking in on not only your guests, but your team, as well.

The customer experience must be your leading initiative throughout the whole night. If your guests are having a poor experience, it’s your responsibility to turn that around. If it’s a staff issue, you need to pull that staff member to the side and have a conversation with them. If it’s a customer issue, have an open and honest conversation with them.

But the bottom line is that any issue that arises throughout your shift is probably a human issue that can be worked through with empathy, compassion, and understanding of the situation. You just can’t solve people issues from hiding in the back office. Period.

4. Set Shift-by-Shift Goals

Most managers have goals that they need to hit from ownership or their supervisors. The problem is most managers put all of that responsibility of hitting those goals onto their shoulders and don’t ask for help.

Of course, you won’t be able to hit your sales or labor goals if you don’t provide specific goals for your team. However, the goals shouldn’t be weekly, monthly, or even quarterly goals because those aren’t attainable on a daily basis.

It’s your duty to your team and to your restaurant to create specific goals that you can measure and attain on a shift by shift basis so your team feels empowered and you are making strides towards hitting your monthly or quarterly goals.

What if you don’t understand how to set goals? It’s not one of those things that are always talked about in management training and it’s a trick that is picked up through mentorship from experienced managers or restaurant operational peers.

Setting goals is a lot easier than you think. Think of three things that your team can do for the restaurant during your shift that can move you closer to hitting those goals.

  • Every time someone orders a cocktail, give them two different options: Y or Z.
  • If your monthly goal is to raise sales by $3,000, that can seem daunting. But if you tell your employee, “Your goal is to increase your sales by $100 and you’ll do that by walking the guest through the menu and offering these suggestions. I can almost guarantee that with better service and suggesting these three offerings, you’ll raise your goal of $100.”
  • I want you to get the name and learn two things about every person who sits in your section. Then let me know, so I can have a conversation with them and will help you make their experience the best that it can be. We want them to come back time and time again.

Setting goals doesn’t have to be difficult. It’s your responsibility to look at your goals, break it up into attainable goals, and track your team’s progress on a daily basis. With you being on the floor, you will be able to provide every customer an exceptional experience.

Again, restaurant management isn’t easy. It can be overwhelming, but it can also be exciting and fun. You need to be the leader in your restaurant so your team will follow you. Be in the trenches with them and help them hit their goals, and soon, you can achieve yours.