3 Traits To Look For in Your Next GM Hire

A common theme that's happening in this industry is there's a shortage on high quality candidates.

The majority of people who are asked why they chose the restaurant industry will say it started out as a side gig or there was nothing else out there for them. When I hear this from a lot of restaurant managers or employees in Los Angeles, it shocks me.

When you ask a restaurant professional what they dislike the most about the industry; often times, they'll say the high-stress environment to low-paying positions aren't worth it these days.

Currently, there's a real BOH staff shortage because most chefs would rather go the personal business route. By opening their own restaurant, chefs get to control the environment and their schedule (even their pay).

When it comes to general management positions, you need to set your restaurant up for success. They will basically be the ones responsible for the success of your restaurant (along with you), so it's important you find the right person for the job.  

There are three traits that are non-negotiable and every successful general manager (GM) will have these. Without these traits, you're setting yourself up for a headache and to work more because you won't trust your GM going forward.

1. Resourceful (Troubleshooting Expert)

Resourceful GM

You need your GM to be resourceful. Some will argue this is the most important trait this person should have. There's nothing more exhausting than leaving work only to be bombarded with phone calls, text messages, and emails about the POS system going down or the fridge stopped working.

I start with the small things because although this might not be the responsibility of your GM in your restaurant, a lot of restaurants consider this their responsibility.

But, what happens in a larger scale operation and the sales slowed down? Most people think to dial back on labor, but how is that building a customer base for the store? It's not. It's cutting back on labor and it means the GM is just accepting the slowness as the new normal.

Part of being resourceful is about not accepting things as the status quo, but pushing beyond the status quo and improving your restaurant operations, marketing, and the workplace environment so your employees enjoy coming to work every shift.

If your GM cannot be resourceful or cannot troubleshoot without giving you a call, it boils down to these two things:

  • You don't empower them to take care of what needs to get done and you micromanage them (which falls on your shoulders) or...
  • They aren't resourceful and will only be a liability for your restaurant.

2. Assertive & Charming

Charming and Assertive GM

The next trait that is a non-negotiable for any GM is that they must be assertive and intentional with everything that they do, but still be charming to spark change with employees and the customers.

A general manager must be able to walk into the restaurant and assess the daily situation and where they're at financially. Everything's a dollar sign to them so it needs to make sense and have an ROI attached to it.

When I say assertive, I don't mean being super strict. What I mean by assertive is by holding the standards of the restaurant and knowing how to hold staff accountable for their actions.

If you walk in and the staff is standing around because the restaurant is slow, but a GM steps in and just asks kindly for people to stay busy and leaves it at that... Chances are, the staff won't jump into action.  

An assertive GM would follow through with action items for everyone and makes sure that these tasks are being done. Now, assertiveness alone won't work which is where the charming characteristic comes in handy.

Yes, we need to build good habits for the team, but you also need to know how to treat people like people and the staff will respond to someone that's personable.

It works with customers as well. If a customer complains, a GM without charm will sound like a robot. But if you have charm, you can turn any situation, no matter how poor of an experience, into a positive one (with a few exceptions).

When I was a GM, I would get complaints from customers and I'd make strides to make it right, but the customer tried to be assertive in not accepting my attempt to recover. I had to be assertive enough to warm them up to accept the offer and charming enough to make sure they felt taken care of and had a desire to come back again.

3. Forward Thinking

Forward Thinking GM

The last trait a successful GM needs to possess, is to be forward thinking. They need to have an understanding of what you want to do with the restaurant and where you want to go.

Not just an understanding though, a belief in your mission and the self-awareness to know that they are one of the few that will be able to help you with that vision.

They need to be able to anticipate the challenges with different situations. Notice how I didn't say anticipate the problems, because I think of them differently. When problems arise, that falls more into the troubleshooting or resourcefulness category. But when it comes to challenges, that means it's a well thought out strategy and the GM understands what could happen in different scenarios and have solutions for each.

A great question to ask a potential GM candidate is how they would market the restaurant in slow periods. Social Media posting and discounts isn't the only way to boost sales and traffic. If they cannot come up with a marketing plan, they don't have the vision that you need for your restaurant.

Also, if your candidate isn't asking questions about what your current challenges are in training, service, workflow, etc... then they don’t have the qualifications to run your restaurant.

You’re hiring a GM to make your life easier. To put yourself at ease when you’re not at the store and that’s why it’s important to have someone that believes in your vision and has the capability to have that forward thinking to make sure your restaurant is more successful than it was before they came on board.

By Andrew Carlson, Industry Expert