After you’ve read this article, I’m going to offer you some suggestions as to what makes a good restaurant manager and the necessary characteristics that a successful manager must have, or acquire.
Time after time ambitious people plunge into the world of operating a restaurant convinced that they will be able to make it a success. The hard truth is that the vast majority have to throw in the towel within the first two years. Many don’t last that long, and some never get beyond the beautiful sign over the door.
Running a restaurant can be a gratifying occupation for many, but at the same time, it can make the manager fall into a deep depression, mostly because they had not taken the time to learn what it takes to be a good manager.
During my long career as an F&B marketing consultant, I’ve met with managers and owners of all kinds and nationalities. Just this experience alone has helped me a great deal in being able to quickly size up a troubled owner’s operation and his or her lack of the essential characteristics necessary for the continued successful operation of the restaurant.
In most cases in which I became involved, the owners and/or managers believed that their business failure was due to their not having an effective restaurant promotion plan. In some cases that was true. But more often, an enterprise collapses simply because the restaurant owner and/or manager lacked certain essential characteristics.
Marketing, however, is not only a matter of promotion or advertising. It is a strategy aimed at improving the customer’s perception starting from the very bottom. At this point, I would advise the reader to take a close look at yourself and your approach to running a restaurant to compare how you have equipped yourself with the qualities and skills that are crucial to the success of any restaurant operation.
The 10 qualities a good restaurant general manager must have
To stay ahead of the game, you’ll need to keep the following tips in mind:
1. Are you working as a full-time waiter in your establishment? If so, who is managing the operation?
In 1955 Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonald’s opened his first branch and he never became in operational tasks inside the restaurant. Instead, he focused on the analysis of work procedures. He analyzed every operational function from cleaning toilets to cooking the hamburgers.
Through these analyses, Mr. Kroc was able to make regular and on-going improvements without changing the overall essence of the restaurant.
The essential duty of a manager is staying aside
Once Mr. Kroc has created all these procedures and implemented them into the improved operation of his restaurant, he found himself in a position to show anyone how to run a restaurant at a profit. Over the years, McDonald’s has become a household name, but you will never or very seldom see a McDonald’s franchise owner working in his store.
The bottom line?
If you want to be a successful restaurateur, your duty is not to get in there with your head down but stand aside and focus on ways to improve your operation.
2. Don’t fall victim to your own tastes
If you keep your focus only on what you like may quickly lead the restaurant into bankruptcy. Your goal rather should be to find out what your customers want and love. That is the key ingredient that has to be part of the recipe for success.
It doesn’t matter what you like, it’s your customers who pay the bills and your concern should be to give them what they like.
Time after time, and more frequently as well, I see many new restaurants that have to close down soon because the owners choose menus, products, and services according to their personal tastes. They aren’t paying attention to what the market wants.
In the past, I ran an Italian restaurant in Dubai. It was called Pizzaro and we naturally served Italian food. Working with the Italian executive chef, we decided to add two dishes that, as an Italian, I consider a sacrilege. These were two dishes that don’t even exist in Italy except perhaps in some tourist restaurants. One was Bolognese pizza (minced meat with tomato sauce) and Alfredo pasta (a concoction of béchamel, chicken, and God only knows what else). However, once on our menus these soon became the most popular items as Arabs loved them and the result increased our daily revenue by 20%.
So what’s the bottom line here?
A great restaurateur remains objective and customers need to be target carefully without allowing him or herself become involved on a personal level.
3. You must be patient
It Mother Nature forgot to endow you with plenty of patience, perhaps you should consider some other occupation. The unfortunate truth is that you don’t deal with patient good-hearted customers alone but with plenty who will really try your patience.
You have to know how to deal with different kinds of guests you’ll find at your tables, and doing so requires a high level of tolerance. If you lose your temper on the dining room floor, you can cause irreparable damage to your entire operation.
You have to be able to handle stress efficiently. You’ll get plenty of difficult customers and staff too, can put a real strain on your patience.
Bottom line here?
Without a real passion and love for the restaurant business means failure. Don’t even start.
4. You have to be passionate
In the Food and Beverage business, you have to be in love with what you do. Without love and patience, a painful failure is just around the corner.
It isn’t mechanical routine factory work. You have to be the case at all times. Every customer is different. Every situation can be different from one client to the next.
Restaurant work is a job that requires a great deal of effort, sacrifice and yes, pain. Ohio University’s research reveals that 60% of new restaurateurs don’t make it past the first year. That’s mainly because these would-be restaurateurs are not really passionate about food and service. Many restaurateurs think anybody can run a restaurant.
So what’s the bottom line here?
Without passion for the business, a hopeful restaurateur is doomed to failure before even starting.
5. You have to be creative
The market is in a constant state of change. People’s tastes change. Not too many years back, the healthful food rage hit and steak housed suffered mightily for some time with many having to close. Fish and vegetables became extremely popular, but as time wore on, the public began to forget and now steakhouses are a popular as ever.
As the public’s tastes and desires change, you have to be ready to change with them.
Every company or product passes through four stages: There is the introduction, the growth and then maturity. Fourth: just like on earth, this too will die. Economists call this the Product Life Cycle.
Unless you’re willing to make changes as needed and refuse to allow fresh ideas and approaches to your business, you may soon find yourself staring at an empty dining room.
Although steaks have regained their popularity, the market for vegans has grown in the last few decades. Today a good portion of populations are vegans or at best, eat very little meat where some years before, meals were designed around meats. Failing to consider these potential customers can be a big mistake.
So the bottom line here?
A skilled restaurant manager is alert to change and is willing to bring changes quickly based on the latest trends in the food market.
6. Don’t be a boss; be a leader
Do you understand the difference between a boss and a leader? I’ll tell you: A boss develops and trains a team through fear and intimidation. A leader, however, builds respectful and trusting relations with team members.
“I” is the boss’s favorite word while “we” is the leader’s word.
To be a real leader, you can’t be a bully, a control freak, a person who reprimands team members before others, very possibly humiliating them. Employees who feel bullied soon have problems with performance. With their personal initiative and skills constantly in question, they become frustrated with low morale.
You may have the most perfectly located restaurant in the world, but if you come on like a commander-in-chief your staff will begin to suffer from low morale and they won’t be willing to sacrifice themselves for the sake of the restaurant. They can quickly assume a quiet but unhealthy “who cares” attitude.
You have to listen to your staff. As a leader, you can be cooperative and delegate authority efficiently. They can quickly feel that they’re a part of something. It can almost be a feeling of “family”.
So what’s the bottom line?
If you’re not a natural leader, you have to develop the skills that help you motivate and make your staff more productive without having to intimidate them.
7. You have to have excellent social skills
One of a successful restaurant manager is an ability to listen. When a customer talks, it’s important to listen, communicate and interact with real interest. And entertaining your guests is also an important part of your duties.
Furthermore, a good socializer is always useful when it becomes necessary to calm an angry customer. In this way, it’s possible to create greater customer loyalty as well.
In 2015 a client invited me to visit his small restaurant in San Cugat, Spain. During my dinner, I couldn’t help but notice how this owner went against all the principles of restaurant management. In this case, service, as well as internal organization, were sorely lacking. For all that, people patiently lined up outside to wait for a table. All of them greeted the owner as if he was an old friend. In this case, despite bad service and organization, the owner’s warmth and personality kept the customers coming back.
The bottom line here?
When all’s said done, it’s more important to put your social skills to their best use in building friendship and customer loyalty than the actual operation of a restaurant.
8. You must learn to read body language
Aside from oral communication, it’s important to remember that many persons also communicate in non-verbal ways. You can learn to read gestures and postures that can help you to understand your guests. It can be very important for you to be able to observe and interpret their body messages.
Sometimes when a customer walks into your restaurant, you’ll be able to tell just what he or she wants.
I hope you take care to pass by tables and ask if everything is okay. Often customers will say yes out of politeness, but their body language and their expressions before and after you pass by may tell a different story. In order to know if there are any problems, it’s important to be able to observe people.
The body doesn’t lie! In order to understand your customers, it’s important that you involve all your senses. You can learn to be a much better host and manager through putting some of these observations into motion.
When I managed a restaurant for Costa Cruises (an Italian cruise line), I learned to do a great deal of learning to read body language and I practiced alone every day as well. I even watched movies without the sound to improve my sixth sense and the outcome of all that was extraordinary. Before long on board the ship I could almost read people’s minds.
A great restaurant manager is armed with the latest technology and is always ready to engage customers on social media platforms.
9. You have to be a high-tech social manager
Today we live in an era of social networks, smartphones, and tablets. It would be a big mistake and a real pity for a manager to fail to exploit the endless potential presented by these new technologies.
You don’t have to be a James Bond with every new gadget. It’s enough for you to have a quality smartphone.
There are many apps that offer support in your restaurant management. And this can be your primary tool in the marketing of your business on the internet. You can post photos you’ve taken. You can create your own videos and post them for your social network followers.
There are apps such as WhatsApp where you can quickly answer questions. There is email and you can make online reservations through services such as TripAdvisor, as well as others.
Bottom line here?
A great restaurant manager arms him or herself with the latest technology and it always ready to engage customers on social media platforms.
10. You and your business much have a clean fresh look
While it may seem obvious to you, during my days in restaurants I’ve seen many restaurateurs, managers, chefs and other personnel as well who neglect their personal appearance. Some sport long beards, they exude body odor, have dirty fingernails, dandruff and crumpled dingy clothing.
You don’t have to be spotless, but having a clean appearance is a critical step in any position where you have to deal with diners.
Good hygiene and clean clothing come first. No excuses!
Here I’ve narrowed my list to the top ten features needed for a successful restaurant manager. But the list might be endless. If you want to expand this list with some personal advice, don’t hesitate to drop a comment below. The door is always open. Thanks.