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5 Restaurant Management Tips To Improve The Way You Work

A diner signals you to tell you how their burger is overdone. Meanwhile a server shares that the second-shift bartender never showed up. You hear coughs from the back -- one of the hoods in the kitchen must be on the fritz again. These are typical problems in the restaurant industry that can happen within 30 seconds, and as the restaurant manager, they are yours to solve – ASAP.

Before you burn out, consider the following restaurant management tips, which can take you from being a good restaurant manager to a great one, and save a little of your sanity along the way.

1. Perfect Your People Skills

You could be crazy about food, excel at inventory, and be a master at cost cutting, but if you can’t deal with people, you are going to struggle managing a restaurant. In addition to hiring and training staff, you have to strike the right balance of leadership. Employees need to feel comfortable coming to you with problems, but they also need to see you as someone they don’t want to let down. Keep in mind the leadership message, “Calm is contagious.” When things get crazy, if you keep your head, others will too.

Of course, managing a restaurant also means building relationships with customers to ensure diners keep coming back. (Even a 5% increase in return customers results in 25-95% higher profits, according to a Harvard Business report.) That means listening to a customer’s unhappy feedback and gracefully accommodating another diner’s dietary restrictions. Be on the lookout for ways to “surprise and delight” customers.

2. Balance Back and Front of House

As a restaurant manager, you must be on top of both back-of-house operations like staffing, payroll, and inventory as well as front-of-house schmoozing at the same time. With your to-do lists piling up, you may be tempted to spend the day in the back office. It’s essential to get back on the floor to have face time with customers and back up staff so set up some fail-safes. One manager says customer service is so important, he makes sure not to spend more than 5 minutes at a time in the back office–he even had an old boss remove all chairs from the office to really drive the point home!

"While it may seem difficult, elevating your impact requires you to embrace an unavoidable leadership paradox: You need to be more essential and less involved. –HBR"

3. Master the Numbers

It’s no wonder you’re tempted to park it in the back office for most of the day: There are so many administrative duties on your plate. However much of that time-consuming number-crunching can be done by software. For instance, SimpleOrder, an inventory management software, can track your food inventory, suppliers, units, and prices so you know what to reorder and when, without having to spend hours updating a spreadsheet. It can also generate reports on automatic food cost, inventory variance, and menu engineering to help drill down on the bottom line. Meanwhile Toast and other point-of-sale systems can also closely monitor restaurant sales reports, sales exception reports, payment reports, and menu reports in real-time with online dashboards.

4. Lead From the Back

Do you tend to just need to take on everything in your restaurant business and just do it yourself? Although this mentality may give the impression that you’ve got things under control, it’s unsustainable, and may lead to sleeping less and getting sick more, making more mistakes, and generally increasing your irritability with staff.

To avoid overwhelm and burnout–and jeopardizing customer satisfaction–one thing to get good at is "delegating and elevating". The Harvard Business Review recommends these four strategies effective managers use to delegate:

• Start with your reasons
• Inspire staff commitment
• Engage at the right level
• Practice saying “yes,” “no,” and “yes, if.”

Distributing tactical tasks across restaurant staff frees up your time to focus on managing, gives your team autonomy to take ownership and get the job done, and empowers by providing new challenges–and the intrinsic reward, of doing a good job. Delegation creates a fulfilling work experience, helps staff stick around longer (decreasing high turnover rates) and gives people more control of their job and it's outcomes (improving engagement).

Leading from the back is more of a day to day ‘soft-skill’ for restaurant owners, but is just as important as the ‘hard skills’ like mastering your POS system, payroll software, and employee scheduling.

5. Master the Schedule

As a good restaurant manager, you dutifully spend hours crafting the shift schedule on a master spreadsheet to ensure your profit margins grow. Of course, later in the week, a server texts you after hours to swap shifts. You make a mental note to tweak the schedule once you get on the next morning. Except the service agent is there to fix the broken hood and you never make the change. The day comes and the server is absent and the shift is uncovered. You start busing tables until your backup arrives.

Level up your scheduling game by upgrading from spreadsheets and pen and paper. With software like 7shifts, schedules are created and revised on a cloud-based app that can be accessed on- or off-site. That way staff is able to have the most current version of the schedule on their mobile device and can request swaps within the app. Managers can copy and tweak previous schedules with just a few clicks as well as approve employee requests in real-time using the app.