Running and managing a restaurant is hard work. It’s a competitive industry and if you don’t know what you’re doing, you can quickly be run out of business. Yet, even if you’ve found success, it’s always helpful to hear from other industry experts so you can improve your process.
That’s why we decided to compile this list of restaurant management tips to help you be successful, no matter how experienced or inexperienced you may be.
In this article, you’ll find 10 helpful tips from restaurant owners and managers who run restaurants all over the country. We reached out to these people and asked them one simple, open-ended question:
“What’s your number one restaurant management tip?”
Here are their exact, unfiltered responses:
“Early in my career, I thought that saying yes to everyone was the right thing to do. Here at Mattone Restaurant, we bend over backwards for our customers but I strongly believe that it is better to be great and perfect your menu items instead of allowing the customer to create their own (with exceptions to food allergies).”
“As with any business, sales channels are the biggest key to building revenue. The restaurant business is at its heart also about real estate, so in that sense, the old adage of “location, location, location” is especially true.
Walk up traffic is going to be a huge aspect of the business and you have to keep that in mind when deciding where you want to put each site. Beyond that though, there are a variety of other sales channels that exist digitally, such as Uber Eats, GrubHub, and a myriad of catering providers.
The location will be huge, but don’t be afraid to leverage existing sales channels to build revenue and brand recognition”
“My #1 restaurant management tip would be having clear and organized divisions of function, or “areas of responsibility” (AORs).
As a current restaurant consultant who works with many restaurant owners, and also as a past restaurant manager, when I begin a project to help a restaurant in distress, one of my first questions is, “who orders lightbulbs?”
If the owner pauses or gives me a confused look, I likely have found a restaurant that doesn’t have clearly defined roles and responsibilities for each manager. Humans do better with clear direction and distinct responsibilities.
When I have to take over a restaurant in distress, the first thing I do is carve up every management responsibility (training, orientation, paper goods, repair and maintenance, linen, host staff work group, dishwasher work group, etc.) and divvy it among managers based on capabilities and career maturity.
Forever more, managers must learn to transition their current responsibilities to another junior manager before taking on higher responsibilities…where they own the success or failure of the manager taking on that role.
This trains them to manage managers and to work as a team. When a manager learns how to manage light bulbs, they learn how to keep a par, how to maintain inventory, how to calculate cost of lightbulbs consumed (beginning inventory + purchases – ending inventory = bulbs consumed) so they can identify theft or excessive breakage or a bad brand of bulb that burns out faster than others.
This makes managing cost of goods – whether bar costs or food costs – much easier to understand…and, again, prepares them to become a General Manager.”
“By making employees feel safe, you build trust and are able to teach, train and drive a positive culture for change drawing on everyone’s innate desire to participate and excel. Building safety requires one on one coaching and clearly communicating expectations, as well as interacting with honesty, empathy, and consistency. You cannot fake caring about your employee’s opinions and points of view.”
“Let’s just first say that fostering a positive, fun and encouraging workplace culture is key to the success of Macchialina.
In my dual roles as Managing Partner and Beverage Director, I offer wine trainings on a regular basis, where we’ll bring in a wine representative or winemaker to taste/educate our staff on their portfolio. I’ve also implemented an educational program called “wine of the week”.
Each week, one of our servers chooses a wine of their choice off our menu; they do their own research on it, learning about the terroir, the wine maker, the varietals, the taste, etc. and then they present it to the whole team. This is a way we can all talk about wines and encourage each other to sell wines that maybe don’t get ordered as often. It’s always interesting if 2 servers happen to choose the same wine, then it becomes a co-presentation!
We are ALWAYS talking about hospitality and how to maximize our efforts in this industry. The fact is, you can get great food at a lot of restaurants in Miami, but what keeps people coming back to Macchialina is more than just the food, it’s about the positive feeling they get when they dine here.
And I don’t mean just overall service, like how fast a dish came out or the number of times a waiter filled up your water glass. What we value most is our customers remembering the bright, bubbly and knowledgeable people who have served them – we want staff members who are genuinely happy to be a part of this big crazy family!
The staff is encouraged throughout our service to come and tell me something they learned about their table, for example where they live, what they like to drink, and/or what their favorite dish of the night was. We then log this information under the guest’s reservation profile for quality control.
In the event that guest/party comes back to eat at a later date, we have a little bit of back story on them; we can revisit the notes at pre-shift, and make sure we can give them outstanding hospitality that they can bank on for the next time they visit us.
We also try and host activities outside of the workplace on a quarterly basis. As most businesses believe (from restaurants to law firms to retail) team bonding activities help build a togetherness and reinforce positive morale so we do our part to get to out of the restaurant and spend quality time together. In the past we have done brewery tours, a bowling night and a group spin class, and it’s always a blast!”
“There are a few things that my years of managing kitchens and restaurants have taught me.First is that the most important part of being a good manager is being a great leader. A close second is that there is no substitute for a great team. Hiring the right people, giving them the tools they need to be successful and then letting them do their job, with guidance, is the secret to longevity and retention.
Third is be present, there is no way to be a good leader from your desk. That’s not to say that office time isn’t important but it needs to be during a defined period in the day, obviously during off peak times. Last but far from least is have fun with it, yes it’s important to maintain standards but as long as there’s always a level of mutual respect there’s no reason that you can’t cut up from time to time.”
“I teach my students at ICE, if you as a manager/owner are to worry about 1 thing, and only 1 thing per day, operationally, worry about your prime costs. Those are your cost of sales plus labor costs.
In any case, they will likely amount to over 50% of your overall costs, and likely closer to 65%.
Find out what your number is and monitor it daily, report on it weekly (I used a weekly dashboard report that calculated those costs for a weekly meeting), have your trusted employees understand it and bonus it. If that’s the ONLY thing you do right, you have a chance to make it!”
“My #1 management tip: hire the right people!
You will save yourself so much time and stress if you hire people who are already responsible, hard-working and a positive influence. You can spend less time training or providing support if employees have a go-getter attitude and strive to be the best they can be.
The great thing about these sort of employees is that they tend to get along with each other and cultivate a culture of excellence. They need praise and added responsibility to satisfy their desire to make an impact, which could mean they should get raises more often.
While this adds to costs, it is totally worth it if it brings more customers in and makes your store a more enjoyable place to work.”
“My number one tip for anyone who is thinking about opening their own restaurant is that the customer is the real owner of the restaurant. Customer satisfaction should always come first and it’s important to instill that in your staff from day one.”
“Look, we sell food and drink, which is a basic need that everyone has, it’s not rocket science.
Having said that, we sell an experience and hopefully a feeling and a connection. Whether it’s serving guests or working with staff, it’s all about making people feel like you are there for them; you see them, you hear them.
Good days, bad days, if you can connect with people in a genuine way, you will find the response is in the same genuine manner. This is the key to keeping staff morale high and guests returning as it builds relationships and connections, long term or short term.“
“Staffing has become our number one industry challenge. Ten years ago, our foodways system in the USA was broken and poorly serving and nurturing us all. It is now much healthier and sustainable. This is a great example of how well advocacy and determination at the grassroots level works to create change for everyone’s good.
Today we face a labor crisis unlike any I’ve seen in my 30+ yrs in the business. I have a long-standing restaurant and a year old one.
Staffing, recruiting, hiring and training, is what we are spending most of our time on. There are many wonderful things about the hospitality business, and naturally, there are some not so great things. As cultures around the globe change and develop, so too, does the need for change in hospitality.
Wages and pay scale are only part of the problem. The greatest threat has come from the archaic, abusive culture which permeated our business for as long as I can remember. The issue has now become exposed and brought to the mainstream. The conversation has started just as the early conversations of our foodways led to fundamental positive change. Not perfect but forward-looking.
Danny Meyer was one of the first to understand and vocalize that our greatest asset is our staff. Awesome customer service is critical as well as profitability. But being mindful of our most important and scarcest resource, staff, is the key to foodservice success.
Long story short, my advice is to concentrate on building a staff which learns to trust one another and builds themselves into a team. Our business has many moving parts and that requires many hands to make a successful operation. Focused hiring and tireless training allow staff to blossom and companies to flourish.“
Here at Helpknx, we want to thank all of the experts who contributed to this post!
As one final tip, the biggest piece of advice we can provide to restaurant owners and managers is to find and hire the right people. When you build the right team, it makes life so much easier. The right employees are easier to train, they take initiative, and they represent your business to the best of their ability.