3 Ways To Get Your Staff to Think Like an Operator

One of the biggest challenges for restaurant owners is getting your staff interested in the job that you are hiring them to do. You sit there and think, “Well, i’m giving them a job that provides a paycheck so they should do what the job entails!”

But that’s not how to get your team to do what you need them to do.

Remember, you’re trying to get your team to think like owners. That’s not going to happen when you think of them that way. It’s important to structure your business to make sure your employees take ownership in their positions.

Once they are able to take ownership in their positions, the next step is to get them to play at your level. Here are 3 ways to make sure your team is rising to the challenge.

Don't Be a Jerk

Over the course of working in restaurants, I had both amazing bosses and terrible bosses. I learned quite a lot from the both of them, but the best golden nugget that I took with me in my years managing restaurants was to never be a jerk.

Let me elaborate. When I first got my start in management, I didn’t have any training. I was tossed into the ocean, while sharks were circling my body and ready for a feeding frenzy.

I would recall how my manager handled different situations and then I followed suit. I walked into my first day as a manager and pinpointed everything that needed to be done. I said things like, “This is dirty” and “I can’t believe this was missed last night” and even, “This is basic knowledge, everyone. Just make sure that we get it done.”

As you can tell, I had a lot of learning to do and a lot of people skills to master. The truth is, you cannot walk into your restaurant and just start pointing out everything that needs to be done or corrected. That’s the quickest way to have your whole team to walk out on you or eventually, just quit.

I can’t tell you how many times I have had bosses come in, not say a thing to me, just point out everything that was wrong, and the only thing that I felt was anger.

I was angry that they didn’t take the time to notice what we did do. I was angry because I have been working to the bone and never got any recognition on what I did accomplish or for being a top seller of the specials. I was angry because I was hitting my numbers and they kept saying that I should be doing better.

It just never seemed like I could catch a break. So what did I do? I eventually just stopped trying as hard. It wasn’t a conscious thing, it just ended up happening.

If you want your team to feel energized and get into a product flow - you can’t be a jerk.

Take a minute to connect with them on a human level. How are they doing? How’s the family? Do you know anything about them? How is their day going?

Having a quick conversation about their life and goals will set them on fire and make them more productive in their position.

Invest in Them

Another way to get people to step up into your level is to invest in them. Investing in them doesn’t have to be some crazy trip or retreat that costs tons of money out of pocket to attend a seminar. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy nor does it have to be extravagant.

But your employees want and need to feel invested in. It’s a necessity.


They want to feel connected to your company and connected to you, as the owner.

Investment could come in the form of higher pay. The truth is, you get what you pay for. If you cut corners on your employee’s wages, they will cut corners in your business.

Investments could also come in the form of books or other types of educational materials.

Another type of investment into your employees is the investment in time. Give them your time. Listen to their ideas. Let them have conversations about your business and let them invest in your company. The more they feel like it’s their own, the better the ideas that come out of it.

The idea that they think of could make all of the difference in your business. or it could not. But at least they are taking ownership.

Weed Out the Bad Eggs

The last thing that you need to do in order to get people to step up to your level is to get rid of the weak links. The ones that cause issues. The “Negative Nancys.” The ones that can never see the bright side of life.

They will destroy your business faster than anything else. It’s interesting to see how quickly a bad egg can destroy the culture that you created in your restaurant.

It’s your responsibility to make sure that everyone on your team is all in for the common goal - which is your restaurant’s mission.

But if you let the bad eggs hang out in your restaurant because you don’t have enough people to cover or because you just don’t like confrontation, you are doing yourself a disservice. Everyone else on your team will see that you aren’t doing anything and will stop trying so hard.

They’ll get upset and irritated. Why are they able to get away with things that no one else can?

Take care of them and take care of it quickly.

Ask Yourself, "What Are My Standards?"

One of the biggest challenges for restaurant owners is getting people to think like owners. But they just expect people to understand the difficulties of restaurant ownership.

Set high standards. Set them higher than you think you should. Create expectations for your team so they will know what they have to do to achieve those goals and expectations.

Have it in writing. Make it part of your restaurant’s mission. Your mission shouldn’t be just about your impact on your community. It should also be something that tells your staff what to expect from you and why you won’t accept anything less.

High standards & expectations will cause everyone to step up - including your customers.

The minute you implement these action items into your restaurant is the minute that everything will start to shift. Your team will step up which will reduce your stress because they are thinking how you want them to be thinking. They will be acting the way you want them to be acting.

Lastly, they will be forward thinkers and will allow you to start enjoying restaurant ownership instead of stressing that your staff can’t step up.

Always strive for excellence. Create that culture and your team will strive for excellence as well.