A Guide to the Role of a Restaurant Manager: Duties, Daily Routine, and Essential Skills

A Guide to the Role of a Restaurant Manager: Duties, Daily Routine, and Essential Skills
AJ Beltis

By AJ Beltis

Managing a restaurant is a delicate routine—if we can even call it a routine. A better description might be a balancing act that presents new and unique challenges every day.

Managers are responsible for nearly every aspect of the restaurant and have to cover a variety of duties. This wide-ranging responsibility is a lot, and it often leads to burnout. In addition to their main duties, restaurant managers also have to contend with all the unwritten or hidden responsibilities that fall on them.

As complex as the role can be, these responsibilities—both written and unwritten—are easier to manage with the right skills (and the right tools).

The main duties and responsibilities of a restaurant manager

Restaurant manager and staff of Snakes & Lattes at host stand

Customer service

Restaurant managers often have to put their customer service skills to use and handle some of the work of maintaining a quality dining experience right alongside front-of-house staff.

It's up to the restaurant manager to maintain a warm, welcoming atmosphere and train staff to do the same. This includes greeting guests and thanking them for their patronage, conducting tableside checks, and resolving any customer complaints quickly, effectively, and empathetically.

The best restaurant managers take customer service a step further, recognizing regulars and personalizing service for a more memorable guest experience.

Restaurant managers also either oversee or directly respond to online reviews. You should expect to spend some of your time approving comps and monitoring staff's service quality to ensure they maintain high standards.


When you manage your restaurant staff well, you manage your restaurant well.

This part of the job is arguably the most multi-faceted. You're responsible for tactical duties like training new hires, conducting performance reviews, disciplining rule breakers and poor performers, and handling compensation changes—in addition to more interpersonal tasks like mentorship and ensuring professional growth.

Accounting & finances

Many owners—who take the initiative to fund and start the restaurant—expect you to keep the business open and profitable. This means you'll need to produce, manage, and analyze the budget and multiple financial reports.

Metrics and sheets you'll need to track include cost of goods sold, labor costs, new operating income, profit, and (see below) inventory costs.

Inventory management

Managers need to ensure the kitchen is stocked with the right amount of food so that nothing is wasted and as few items need to be 86'ed as possible.

Additionally, managers need to consistently check on inventory variance—the difference between the actual cost of ingredients used and the recorded cost of ingredients used—to control food and alcohol costs and ensure as little inventory as possible is wasted, stolen, or over-portioned.

One other way you may need to manage inventory is with menu planning. Some restaurant managers work directly with the chef to plan menu item selection or daily specials. If this applies to you, you'll want to make sure that menu items are enticing, well-portioned, and profitable.

Scheduling & payroll

Ask any restaurant manager what their biggest point of frustration on the job is. Chances are, it's balancing the scheduling requests of dozens of employees each week.

On top of that, there's payroll, which can take hours each week (especially when you're not using the right restaurant payroll software). This is mostly thanks to the regulations, taxes, forms, and other moving pieces surrounding staff pay.

But we can't overstate the importance of these responsibilities. You need staff to show up every day, and that won't happen unless they know two things:

  • When they're scheduled to work
  • That they'll be paid on time

So knowing how to schedule staff and how to do payroll is essential for a smoothly running restaurant—and so is having the right tools to make it happen.

Marketing & advertising

It's your job to ensure the restaurant's seats are full, especially if you're not part of a massive franchise that benefits from corporate advertising.

But smaller restaurants also have to worry about keeping the budget intact. This means that managers tend to bear more of the marketing responsibilities and have to know how to use digital marketing platforms effectively.

Posting on social media, optimizing visibility on search engines like Google, and building an email list are all key. Exploring affordable traditional marketing opportunities in your area, like event sponsorships or local ads, is also a good idea.


This is the catch-all of all restaurant manager responsibilities. "Operations" is usually just a short way to say "keeping the restaurant running". This includes both front-of-house and back-of-house tasks like:

  • Maintaining the restaurant's culture and ambiance
  • Ensuring compliance with health and safety regulations
  • Setting and meeting business targets
  • Interacting with staff, partners, and guests to maintain positive relationships
  • Scheduling staff and ensuring compliance with all labor regulations
  • Performing quality control checks across the restaurant's operations

What is a restaurant manager's daily routine?

A restaurant general manager's daily routine involves various administrative, operational, and people-management tasks.

Every day has its mix of tasks because not everything in a restaurant happens daily. Deliveries, payroll, paying vendor invoices, and so on all happen on their own cadence.

A fairly typical day might look something like this:

  • Check the logbook.
  • Review sales data from the previous day (and any other daily reporting, such as tip reports).
  • Oversee incoming deliveries.
  • Stock incoming inventory.
  • Check employee schedules to ensure plans match reality.
  • Run the pre-shift meeting
  • Monitor operations during rush.
  • Check inventory levels.
  • Log item transfers and wastes.

Another thing to note: The less visible work of being a manager—the duties that typically do not show up in the restaurant manager job description—will also affect the daily routine.

9 restaurant manager responsibilities not typically included in the job description

So, how about those other tasks that weren't in the job description? Good restaurant managers will also need to excel in other key areas:

Staff retention

A manager has to be able to manage a team well, of course, but that's because a happy, productive, and fulfilled staff is less likely to turn over. And, like it or not, staff satisfaction often comes down to manager performance.

Toast performed extensive research among non-managerial restaurant employees with surprising results. The biggest turnover driver was low pay, which is a separate discussion. But other top drivers—"not recognized for hard work" (44%) and straight-up "difficult manager" (37%)—land solely on management's shoulders.

Turnover exceeds 100% in some restaurants, meaning the restaurant loses more than its total number of employees in a given year. And Toast found that turnover averaged around 80% over the past decade.

While some turnover is normal, due in part to the seasonal availability of a younger workforce, a number that high is certainly preventable. Proactively noting when your high-performers are stressed or discouraged and finding opportunities to boost staff morale can help keep your staff around longer.

Human resources

Beyond your normal staff management efforts like employee engagement and scheduling, you'll likely have to take on some more tactical duties that HR would typically handle in larger restaurants (or the owner in smaller ones).

For example, you might have to take a larger role in candidate sourcing, recruiting, hiring, onboarding, and even the firing process than you might expect.

Tasks like letting people go and actively sourcing candidates might not be on the top of your personal to-do list, but they help you build and maintain a strong team since you're taking an active part in ensuring the right people work for you.

If you're interviewing for a restaurant management role—especially at a smaller restaurant—be sure to clarify which of these HR duties you may have.

General maintenance

Restaurant management requires being ever-present and extremely attentive. This is extremely true when it comes to noticing what needs to be cleaned and fixed and knowing how to remedy the situation.

Notice a spill that your staff is too in the weeds to address? Grab a mop. Your line cook tells you the oven's not working? Grab the manual and get on the phone with the manufacturing company.

Sometimes, handling these fixes—regardless of whether they're visible or invisible to the customer—and mitigating their impact on a guest's experience might require doing the work no one wants to do. But it's all part of managing a restaurant!

Filling in the blanks

The threat of a no-call, no-show is a recurring nightmare for restaurant managers—largely because they know that if they can't secure a replacement for the shift, it's time to step up.

This means bussing, bringing guests to their tables, taking out the trash, and restocking the kitchen working stations are your job today, even if you thought you'd never have to do that again when you took this role.

You might even have to step up and handle these situations when your whole staff shows up, but it's busier than expected. Remember, being a restaurant manager means always staying on your toes and being prepared to jump in at a moment's notice to keep the restaurant running.

Being tech-savvy

Restaurant operator looking at phone in restaurant

Technology is cementing its space in the restaurant industry. While the thought of learning different software might be daunting at first, it's important to note that these technologies exist to make your job easier.

However, you do need to put the time and effort into familiarizing yourself with the software suite your restaurant utilizes. You'll also need to keep an eye out for when you may need a replacement or upgrade and do your research to source the best solution.

You'll use a lot of restaurant software and technologies on the job—from employee scheduling software to payroll and accounting tools to online ordering systems and beyond.

Yeah—it can be a lot of software and tech to keep track of. But it's up to you to ensure you're using the best kind for each of these areas, become fluent in how to use them, and know how to train your staff if it's a technology they'll be using.

Staying educated

It's easy to think you've "made it" when you get the restaurant manager job, but in actuality, the real work has just begun.

One of the best ways to keep your mind and your performance sharp is to continuously educate yourself on restaurant management. This involves reading restaurant management blogs and news publications, taking relevant classes and courses, and attending industry events and trade shows.

Accepting the idea that you should never stop learning simply means you've got nowhere to go but up—and so does the restaurant you manage.


You'll be responsible for making your team a positive, productive hospitality machine. This goes far beyond training during the first week. You'll need to serve as your team's leader and mentor, often giving up your space in the spotlight so other employees can have theirs.

As a restaurant manager, it's on you to recognize all your employees. More specifically, it means identifying the employees who show initiative but need some help and guidance.

This is where your restaurant's potential exists: Helping your well-intentioned team members who aren't performing to standard will boost the team's overall efficiency.

However, sometimes you may be so busy that you won't be able to bond or connect with all of your employees as much as you'd like. This calls you to always lead by example and foster a sense of team camaraderie that carries over even when you're not present.

You might also see a situation where poor performance correlates to an employee's personal life outside of the restaurant. Within professional boundaries, showing support and being there for those employees can establish your role as a mentor who cares just as much about the people who work in the restaurant as you do for the restaurant itself.


This is one of the most challenging restaurant manager responsibilities simply because it's rather ambiguous. Essentially, being innovative means recognizing an issue in your restaurant—be it efficiency, inventory control, or the online ordering process—and creating a new process or solution for your restaurant to do it better.

For example, you may notice that, because your servers need to stop and check on other tables before sending an order to the kitchen, the time guests have to wait for their meals is longer than it could be.

You do some research and find out that equipping your waitstaff with handheld order tablets could send orders faster and decrease table turn time. This could make your restaurant more efficient for guests and more profitable as a business.

Knowing how to solve every issue in your restaurant through innovation isn't simple, but getting good at your other restaurant manager responsibilities—like being attentive in your restaurant and reading up on industry news—can help you identify those opportunities more immediately and give you the insight to find a solution.

Managing your own time

Restaurant manager looking at laptop in restaurant

We'll be honest with you—it's highly unlikely your week will be confined to 40 hours. Be prepared for how this role may spill over into your personal time—especially when you’re just getting used to your new restaurant manager responsibilities.

Putting out fires might take more time than you think, and you still need to find time for your job's core tasks. So before you take the plunge and decide to become a restaurant manager, invest the time into becoming a master of time management.

If you need to become better at time management, try a few of these solutions:

  • Use to-do lists or apps: Simply writing your ideas down can clear your thoughts and give you a clear direction on prioritizing. If you want your list to go with you wherever you go, try installing Evernote or Todoist right on your phone or computer.
  • Start delegating: Delegate the low-effort tasks that you just don't have the time for to an employee who does. You can also use this as a way to spot potential in the staff members who are capable of following instructions and might make good candidates for a promotion.
  • Use time blocking: Sometimes, you just need to hunker down for 30 minutes and put those final touches on next week's work schedules without distraction.

Identify the time periods in your day that aren't too busy in the restaurant and would allow you to go head-down for a bit of uninterrupted working time. Maximizing your efficiency in these time periods means you'll be able to handle more of whatever comes up without warning during the dinner rush.

Essential skills to develop for restaurant managers

Understanding the job's formal and implied responsibilities is a good start. But, the best restaurant managers also invest in developing the skills needed to perform those responsibilities at a consistently high level.

Leadership and team management

Leadership sets the restaurant's culture, which can be the difference between a waiting list of applicants begging to work there and cutting hours due to a lack of staff.

An effective leader inspires and motivates the team and uses their communication skills to foster a collaborative environment. And when employees collaborate with positivity and camaraderie, the team management component is much easier.

So, regardless of your natural disposition or prior experience, work to build your leadership skills so you can set the tone in the work environment. This is how you'll create high standards for the guest experience and positive expectations for teamwork and collaboration.

Organizational abilities

Managing a restaurant is the ultimate example of plate-spinning, and it takes strong organizational abilities to keep all those plates in the air.

One strategy for efficient time management is mapping out the day (or week) before you start on your work. Identify what needs to happen when, then build time into your workday to accomplish each task before the deadline.

Of course, you'll want to build in some wiggle room since the realities of running a restaurant will inevitably interrupt that schedule. But just having a schedule is key to staying on task and not missing any responsibilities.

When making your schedule, you might find there are too many tasks and not enough hours to do them. Effective managers identify this reality early then delegate some tasks to avoid falling behind.

Problem-solving and decision-making

The buck stops with you. As a result, problems end up on your desk, in your inbox, and sometimes standing irate at the front of your restaurant. So strong problem-solving, critical thinking, and quick decision-making skills are all key for restaurant managers.

The restaurant environment is fast-paced, so you often won't have the luxury of slowly mulling over a decision. You need to reach the right decision fast and execute it.

Attention to detail

In any restaurant, details matter. And the more upscale your restaurant, the more they matter.

Sloppy plates, incorrect orders, missed jobs, and rework all stem from a lack of attention to detail. On the flip side, meticulousness in areas like food quality, service standards, and cleanliness can set a restaurant apart in a competitive market.

Diners may overlook weaknesses in an area or two, but only when a restaurant outperforms its competitors in other ways. So, no matter which way you slice it, attention to detail matters.

Safety awareness and compliance knowledge

Last, effective managers stay safety aware and keep themselves up to date on current compliance standards. As the person in charge, you're responsible for preventing incidents—whether workplace injuries due to not following protocol or civil penalties for labor law violations.

Staying on top of health regulations, food safety standards, and workplace safety protocols helps you maintain compliance and safety. Plus, it also protects the customer experience and staff morale.

Mastering your restaurant manager responsibilities

In your restaurant manager role, you'll handle responsibilities you trained for, those you never saw coming, and perhaps even some you didn't know existed. It's a job that includes numerous skills, from interpersonal to operational and technical.

But with a stronger understanding of both the responsibilities you can expect and the skills to focus on, you'll be better prepared for ongoing success in the restaurant industry.

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AJ Beltis
AJ Beltis

AJ Beltis is a freelance writer with almost a decade of experience in the restaurant industry. He currently works as a content manager at HubSpot, and previously as a blogger at Toast.