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The Efficient Restaurant Manager: Guide to Master Restaurant Management

Discover effective techniques for mastering restaurant management in this comprehensive guide. Elevate your skills and boost your success.

4 mins readJune 28, 2023

Whether you’re searching for the perfect restaurant manager or looking to start a restaurant, you’ll need to juggle numerous responsibilities that involve understanding the most minor of details and seeing how they affect the big picture.

We’re not going to lie, learning how to manage a restaurant can get overwhelming. But with these restaurant management tips, you can run your restaurant like a well-oiled machine, stay ahead of the competition, and maintain a happy team.

What exactly does a restaurant manager do?

Restaurant management is an all-encompassing role that touches on every aspect of the business. From keeping customers satisfied to managing inventory to ensuring all staff and suppliers are paid on time—restaurant managers keep things running.

Here’s a breakdown of the basic responsibilities of a restaurant manager:

  • Team management - Involves hiring and training staff, ensuring everyone is getting along, and keeping team morale high.

  • Customer Relations - Ensures customers are happy and receive excellent service when they enter the restaurant. You also deal with customer complaints and work to resolve issues before they escalate.

  • Inventory Management - Makes sure there is enough inventory daily, keeps track of stock levels, and orders from suppliers when needed. This may also include finding ways to keep costs at a minimum.

  • Marketing - Brings in new customers and stays ahead of the competition through ads on social media, fliers, and coming up with promotions to increase sales.

  • Daily Operations - Responsible for keeping everything and everyone working as they should.

While tasks may vary from restaurant to restaurant, these are the hard responsibilities typically listed in a job opening. However, most restaurant managers must go above and beyond their official duties to ensure the business runs smoothly.


And the Unofficial Tasks of a restaurant manager?


The unofficial tasks of a restaurant manager may include:


  • Restaurant maintenance: such as changing flickering bulbs and getting your hands dirty with DIY jobs;
  • Research and innovation: Coming up with better and more efficient ways of doing things;
  • Wearing different hats: Being able to fill various positions when needed.

The Four Pillars of Restaurant Management

You can categorize a restaurant manager’s responsibilities under two main umbrellas: day-to-day operations and overall business performance.

While you most likely will have a team to help you run the business, restaurant owners or first-time managers must understand every aspect of the restaurant.

Paul Mangianele, president and CEO of the American chain Bennigan’s, says, “Work in different positions, in the front of the house, back of the house, bartending, hosting, serving, cooking,” he adds, “No matter what comes up, you need to be able to jump in and handle it because it’s your business.”

Below we’ve divided restaurant management into four “areas” to help you understand the different roles and learn how to be the best restaurant manager in your new restaurant:

1. Kitchen Restaurant Management

Many restaurants leave it up to the chefs to manage everything that goes on in the kitchen, including menu and recipe development, kitchen staff management, and staying on top of orders. Some tasks of a chef and restaurant manager may overlap, but the main difference is that the restaurant manager doesn’t have to do any cooking. But everything else in the kitchen is. Here’s what you’ll need to stay on top of:


STEP 1: Keep track of inventory


Make sure you have enough fresh ingredients before you start service. Before you close up at the end of the day, it’s best practice to know what ingredients you’ll need the following day before you open. Taking inventory of other non-perishable items should be done regularly, whether you do it on a monthly or weekly basis.

There are POS systems with inventory management features you can use for a more refined and efficient workflow. Here is a breakdown of the steps involved in how a POS integrates inventory management:


1. Centralized Inventory Database: A POS system with inventory management allows you to create a centralized database where you can store all your ingredient and non-perishable item information. This includes details such as item names, quantities, pricing, and supplier information.


2. Real-time Tracking: With a POS system, you can track your inventory in real-time. As you make sales and use ingredients, the system automatically updates the inventory levels. This eliminates the need for manual tracking and provides accurate and up-to-date information.


3. Automated Reordering: The POS system can be set up to automatically generate purchase orders or alerts when the stock levels of specific ingredients or items reach a predefined threshold. This ensures that you can replenish your inventory on time and never run out of essential supplies.

STEP 2: Menu refinement


Refining your menu is a crucial aspect of effective restaurant management that directly influences your business's success. While the chef takes the lead in crafting recipes, it falls upon you as the restaurant manager to ensure that your menu consists of the most popular dishes while eliminating those that underperform. Here are some practical insights and actionable steps to excel in menu refinement:


1. Analyze Sales and Customer Feedback: Utilize your point of sale (POS) system to track sales and identify your top-selling items. Additionally, engage in regular conversations with guests to gather valuable feedback on their dining experience and specific menu choices. As a restaurant manager, you must regularly review sales reports and customer feedback to identify popular dishes and areas for improvement.


2. Assess Profitability: Evaluate the profitability of each menu item by considering ingredient costs, preparation time, and portion sizes. Identify dishes with low profit margins or slow inventory turnover that may not be financially viable. As a restaurant manager, you must calculate the food cost percentage for each menu item and prioritize those with higher profitability. Explore options such as adjusting prices, portion sizes, or ingredients to enhance profitability.


3. Streamline the Menu: Maintaining a streamlined menu helps reduce inventory costs, minimize food waste, and ensure consistent quality. Focus on your restaurant's strengths and eliminate dishes that have low demand or lack popularity. As a restaurant manager, you must regularly review your menu and remove underperforming items. Consider offering daily specials or seasonal menus to introduce variety without overwhelming your kitchen operations.


4. Collaborate with the Chef: Foster a collaborative relationship with your chef and involve them in the menu refinement process. Discuss customer feedback, sales data, and profitability analysis together to make informed decisions. As a restaurant manager, you must schedule regular meetings with the chef to review menu performance, exchange ideas, and enhance existing dishes. Encourage them to experiment with new ingredients and flavors to keep the menu fresh and appealing.


5. Optimize Menu Engineering: Apply strategic menu engineering techniques by placing high-profit margin items in prominent positions on the menu. Use enticing descriptions, appealing food photography, and suggestive selling techniques to influence customer choices. As a restaurant manager, you must analyze your menu layout, item descriptions, and pricing to optimize profitability. Test different menu designs and assess their impact on sales and customer preferences.


STEP 3: Equipment assessment and maintenance


Ensuring the proper assessment and maintenance of equipment is essential for the smooth functioning of your restaurant. While a delectable menu and skilled kitchen staff are vital, their efforts can be compromised without high-quality equipment. Here are practical insights and actionable steps to prioritize equipment assessment and maintenance:


1. Regular Inspection: Conduct routine inspections of all equipment to identify any potential issues or signs of wear and tear. This includes ovens, stoves, refrigeration units, dishwashers, and other essential kitchen tools. As a restaurant manager, you must establish a maintenance checklist and schedule regular inspections to ensure optimal equipment condition.


2. Cleaning and Sanitization: Implement a comprehensive cleaning and sanitization routine for all equipment to uphold hygiene standards and prevent cross-contamination. Pay particular attention to areas prone to grease buildup, such as oven interiors, grills, and range hoods. As a restaurant manager, you must train your staff on proper cleaning protocols and establish a regular cleaning schedule for each piece of equipment. Consider professional cleaning services for specialized equipment maintenance.


3. Preventive Maintenance: Develop a preventive maintenance plan to address potential issues before they escalate. This entails routine servicing, lubrication, calibration, and replacement of worn-out parts. As a restaurant manager, you must create a maintenance calendar specifying the required servicing and maintenance tasks for each equipment. Engage qualified technicians to perform preventive maintenance activities.


4. Knife Sharpening and Maintenance: Regularly assess and maintain the sharpness of kitchen knives. Dull knives not only impede efficiency but also pose safety hazards to your staff. As a restaurant manager, you must provide appropriate knife sharpening tools and train your kitchen staff on safe knife sharpening and maintenance techniques. Consider professional knife sharpening services as needed.


5. Staff Training: Train your staff on the correct use, care, and maintenance of all equipment. Educate them about the potential risks associated with improper handling and stress the importance of promptly reporting any equipment malfunctions. As a restaurant manager, you must implement regular training sessions to ensure your staff is well-versed in equipment operation and maintenance. Provide clear guidelines and documentation for reference.

How Restaurants Can Prepare For a Health And Safety Inspection

STEP 4: Enforce health and safety protocols


Maintaining impeccably hygienic food preparation and safety standards in your kitchen is crucial for the success of your restaurant. Surprise inspections can occur, so it's important to be well-prepared. Here are practical steps to help you achieve outstanding hygiene and safety:


1. Create Cleaning Checklists: Develop detailed checklists that outline specific cleaning tasks and their frequency. This ensures that all areas of your kitchen receive regular cleaning and maintenance. As a restaurant manager, you must assign responsibilities to your staff and establish a system for tracking completed tasks to ensure accountability.


2. Enforce "Clean as You Work" Rules: Foster a culture of cleanliness by implementing rules that encourage staff to clean and sanitize work surfaces, utensils, and equipment throughout food preparation. This helps maintain a clean and organized workspace. As a restaurant manager, you must provide training on proper cleaning practices and emphasize the importance of immediate cleaning and sanitization during food preparation.


3. Sanitize Areas in Contact with Raw Meat: Take extra care to sanitize areas that come into contact with raw meat, such as cutting boards, knives, and countertops. This minimizes the risk of cross-contamination and the spread of harmful bacteria. As a restaurant manager, you must establish strict protocols for cleaning and sanitizing areas and equipment after handling raw meat. Use designated cutting boards and utensils for raw meat to prevent cross-contamination.


4. Separate Areas and Tools for Different Ingredients: Designate separate areas and dedicated tools for handling different ingredients, particularly those with specific handling requirements or allergens. This prevents cross-contamination and ensures the integrity of each ingredient. As a restaurant manager, you must set up separate workstations and utensils for different ingredients and clearly communicate and enforce these guidelines with your staff.


5. Schedule and Assign Trash Disposal: Establish a schedule for regular trash disposal and assign responsibilities to ensure that trash bins are promptly emptied and maintained in a clean and hygienic condition. As a restaurant manager, you must coordinate with your staff to create a trash disposal schedule and clearly communicate their roles and responsibilities in maintaining a clean environment.


6. Schedule Storage and Refrigerator Inspections: Regularly schedule and conduct thorough inspections of your storage areas and refrigerators to identify expired or spoiled ingredients. This helps maintain the freshness of your inventory and prevents the use of compromised ingredients. As a restaurant manager, you must set specific dates for storage and refrigerator inspections, ensuring they are carried out by designated staff members. Promptly dispose of any expired or spoiled items.

2. Restaurant Staff Management

According to Katie Wokas, general manager of San Diego BBQ restaurant The Pioneer, the most important advice she can give about managing staff is to lead by example. Your team will take your lead, so if you want them to be 100% focused during service, you must show them how.

Don’t make exceptions for yourself because you’re the boss. For example, if staff isn’t allowed a phone during shifts, you shouldn’t be seen using yours.

Below are effective ways to manage your staff:


1. Invest in training - Your restaurant can’t get rave reviews without the people behind the dishes or the servers that make the customer’s day. You may be lucky to get excellent team members upon hiring, but it’s vital to keep polishing their skills. Give them the support they need to be the best at their job.


2. Specialize their skills - When starting out, it might be tempting to cut costs by allowing your staff to take on multiple roles. However, doing that may jeopardize their mastery of specific roles. Bartenders should focus on bartending, while servers should focus on serving the customers.


3. Hire with your team in mind - It may be tempting to choose the most skilled candidate for the job, but personality and track record should always be the priority. A talented cook with a horrible temper might serve delicious dishes but ruin team morale and lead to resignations.

Restaurant Owners

4. Financial Management

Financial management is a crucial and often tedious aspect of running a restaurant. To ensure a clear understanding of your restaurant's performance, it's essential to track expenses meticulously. While a comprehensive guide on managing restaurant finances would require a separate article, here are three key areas to focus on:

1. Fixed Costs: Monitor and manage your fixed monthly expenses, such as rent, lease payments, restaurant insurance premiums, and loan repayments. These costs remain constant and need to be accounted for consistently.

2. Variable Costs: Stay on top of your variable costs, which can fluctuate based on various factors. This includes employee wages, including overtime and bonuses, inventory and food prices, utilities (such as electricity, water, and gas), and other expenses that vary over time. Regularly reviewing and analyzing these costs will help you identify areas where you can optimize spending.

3. Sales Performance: Keep a close eye on your restaurant's sales performance on a daily, monthly, and annual basis. Analyzing sales data allows you to identify trends, peak periods, and slow periods. This information can guide your decision-making regarding pricing strategies, menu adjustments, and marketing efforts.


Action items for effective financial management


1. Implement a Robust Accounting System: Utilize a reliable accounting software or hire a professional accountant to ensure accurate and organized financial records. This system will help you track expenses, generate financial statements, and maintain compliance with tax regulations.


2. Regularly Review Financial Statements: Take the time to review and analyze your financial statements, including income statements, balance sheets, and cash flow statements. This will provide you with insights into your restaurant's financial health, profitability, and areas of improvement.


3. Budgeting and Cost Control: Develop a comprehensive budget that outlines projected revenues and expenses. Regularly compare actual expenses against your budgeted amounts and identify areas where you can reduce costs without compromising quality. Implement cost-control measures to improve profitability.


4. Cash Flow Management: Monitor your cash flow closely to ensure you have enough funds to cover expenses and maintain a healthy working capital. This involves managing accounts receivable, accounts payable, and inventory levels effectively.


5. Seek Professional Advice: Consider consulting with a financial advisor or accountant who specializes in the restaurant industry. They can provide valuable guidance on financial strategies, tax planning, and cost-saving measures.

5 qualities of a successful restaurant manager

All successful restaurants will have a set of high-performing managers and owners working behind the scenes to deliver excellent food and service. These professionals all share five things in common.


1. Excellent communication skills


Restaurant managers talk to their teams regularly about table reservations, customer orders, or employee scheduling, so you must understand the importance of clear and effective communication. Check out the four main types of communication below. Have you mastered all of them?

Communication skills

Image source: Indeed


2. Respect for restaurant staff


Positive staff interactions will not only help with staff morale and ensure employee retention is high but will improve customer satisfaction. A happy and confident workforce will translate to great service.

For example, many traditional restaurants follow the French brigade structure or chain of command, where everyone is given responsibility and authority over their roles. When used correctly, the method can boost efficiency and team morale.

According to Paul Sargule, chef and president of restaurant consulting agency Harvest America Ventures, the brigade system, which is notorious for the phrase “Yes chef,” can still work today, more than 140 years since it was implemented.

Sargule shares, “‘Yes chef,’ helps to create pride, respect for a position, and commitment to a common goal. It is a reflection of the order and unity that allows a kitchen to perform at the highest level and produce exceptional dining experiences for guests.”


3. Focus on the guest experience


Managing customer experience effectively starts with listening to their wants and needs. While there’s no predicting what each customer will need, we’ve provided a list of the most common customer requests and how to respond to them:

Is it possible to change (x ingredient) to (y ingredient)?” - The rule of thumb should be, if it’s a reasonable and possible request, always accommodate it. However, if this affects your costs, don’t forget to disclose this immediately.

Does your food contain any (allergen)” - If your answer “no,” make sure this is a confident no. However, if your dishes contain common allergens like nuts or seafood, it’s important to include this information on your menu.

I’m proposing to my girlfriend, can your team help me make it special?” - As your restaurant gets more popular, you can anticipate similar requests. Always try your best to accommodate special occasions, but always explain your limitations. For example, if a guest requests a specific setup, show them what you can do before making promises.

Can you split the bill?” - This is a common request for group diners in casual restaurants, especially among groups of friends. To avoid confusion, make sure to ask the customers if they’d like for you to split the bill in a specific way before taking their orders.

As you learn more about your customers, it will be easier for you to anticipate special requests and preferences. For example, a regular may favor a specific table, so if you know that they’re coming at a particular time, reserve that table for them.

Customer satisfaction

Image source: ResearchGate


4. Maintain a positive attitude and a cool head


A leader’s attitude will set the tone for the rest of the staff. For example, by looking at problems objectively and devising solutions, your staff feels more confident approaching you with their issues.

Restaurants are notorious for having toxic work environments. Reverse the stigma by practicing positive reinforcement with your staff. Recognize good work, and handle issues with care.

For example, Coffee giant Starbucks has various programs where employees are recognized. The “Store Partner of the Quarter” program allows team members to nominate exceptional colleagues for the award. Winners get rewards and recognition.

Learn from the mistake of famed Momofuku’s David Chang, whose explosive anger led to an infamous culture of disrespect among key leaders and the increasingly high attrition rate in the restaurant group.

Remember that fear and respect are completely different. You want your team to feel safe and relaxed in their work to help them perform their best and overcome any mistakes.


5. Eagerness to learn how to be a better restaurant manager


The best restaurant manager is able to understand every aspect of the restaurant’s operations, including revenue management, cash flow, equipment leasing, and security. This means you must constantly educate yourself about the latest updates and undergo additional training when necessary.

It’s also helpful to keep your eye out for innovations and systems that can help you work smarter and stay ahead of the competition.

Takeaways

  1. Monitor and control costs by optimizing portion sizes, reducing food waste, and implementing energy-efficient practices.

  1. Track daily sales, manage cash flow, and maintain a cash reserve for unexpected expenses.

  1. Analyze profitability regularly by calculating financial ratios to identify areas for improvement.

  1. Develop a comprehensive budget and financial forecast to guide decision-making.

  1. Negotiate favorable terms with suppliers to obtain competitive pricing and maximize savings.

  1. Set menu prices strategically based on ingredient costs, overhead expenses, competition, and customer preferences.

  1. Generate accurate and timely financial reports to gain insights into your restaurant's performance.

  1. Implement cost control measures throughout operations to minimize expenses.

  1. Seek professional financial assistance from experts specializing in the restaurant industry.

  1. Stay compliant with tax regulations and ensure proper financial management to maintain the restaurant's financial health.

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