How to manage a restaurant like a boss: 7 essential tips

Whether you’re dreaming of running a restaurant or even starting your own, there are 7 non-negotiable things you need to know if you want to succeed.

As an owner or manager of a new establishment in particular, you will be taking on a lot of roles across many different areas until your restaurant begins to run like a well-oiled machine. Once you have your systems in place and your staff are trained up, you can begin to delegate more tasks.

Until then you need to be on top of all seven key management areas, particularly if you’re the owner-manager.

If you want your restaurant to thrive, it’s crucial to start out with a clear understanding of the core business areas involved in restaurant management.

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There’s no better way to set yourself up for success than upskilling with a Bachelor of Business (Hospitality Management), where you’ll build your business acumen and feel confident about kick-starting your enterprise.

The basics of restaurant management

The basics of how to manage a restaurant can be summarised into 7 key areas:

  1. Finances
  2. Kitchen
  3. Staff
  4. Customer Experience
  5. Standard Operating Procedures
  6. Marketing and Advertising
  7. Leadership

Let’s take a closer look at what’s involved in managing each of these core business areas.

1. Managing finances

  • Write a long-term business strategy for growth

The foundation of any new restaurant is its initial business plan. Make sure that when you are drafting your business plan, you are building it around a long-term strategy for growth. Even if your restaurant finds initial success, trends, tastes and customer expectations change over time. You need to build change and growth strategies into your business model, or you might get left behind.

If you’re not familiar with key concepts of hospitality business strategy, culinary trends or growth planning, you might want to consider studying a Bachelor of Business (Hospitality Management) or similar degree. As part of this course, you’ll complete subjects, such as:

A sound understanding of these concepts will ensure the success of your restaurant in the long term.

  • Bookkeeping, monitoring costs and income

For many restaurant managers, keeping track of regular bookkeeping is a constant part of the job. You have to regularly balance costs and revenue, reign in unnecessary expenditures and wastage, and you need to keep an eye on the budget at all times.

If you haven’t already got skills in this area then it’s a good idea to study some accounting basics, such as Accounting for Decision Making, one of the core subjects covered in a typical hospitality management course.

There are also a lot of tools and systems to help stay on top of bookkeeping, including:

  • Taxes and other business filings

Filing taxes, paying licensing fees and keeping up with any other paperwork that your business is required to submit annually is part of the manager role. However, this is luckily one role that can be at least partially delegated to an accountant.

2. Managing the kitchen

  • Menu Design

Good menu design is central to the success of any restaurant business. However, this task is best delegated to your head chef, unless you are also professionally trained in culinary. The role of the restaurant manager regarding menu design is primarily to choose an initial theme for the restaurant, to decide what kind of cuisine you want on your menu and therefore what type of chef to hire.

  • Equipment and the Kitchen

As a manager, it’s your job to make sure you’ve set up the kitchen properly, so the cooks can do their job. Consult your chefs about what they need, before you equip and design your kitchen, and don’t forget to read the reviews. There are some great online resources such as Chef’s Pencil that can help you to choose the best equipment. You also need to make sure kitchen cleanliness and functionality are maintained.

  • Sourcing and Ordering From Suppliers

Chefs sometimes have their own suppliers or prefer their own contacts for ordering their own produce. If not, it’s up to the restaurant manager to source and secure contracts with suppliers.

The restaurant manager and chef are together responsible for putting in the daily, weekly or monthly orders for food and beverage from suppliers. It’s important to maintain good relationships with suppliers, so make sure you have a regular system in place for payment for your orders.

3. Managing staff

  • Hiring and training

Restaurant staff hold up the whole business, so make sure you hire the right people and train them correctly. Staffing is one of a manager’s key responsibilities, so it needs to be thought through and managed very carefully from the beginning. How you manage your staff has a huge impact on the overall functioning and atmosphere of your restaurant.

As a manager you need to:

  • Clearly define all roles
  • Hire the right person for each role and match their skills to the job
  • Communicate roles, policies and expectations to staff during training
  • Have a formal onboarding process
  • Create systems of incentives and rewards

Check out these tips on how to manage restaurant staff effectively.

  • Rostering and payroll

Another important job of a restaurant manager is to take responsibility for writing a weekly, biweekly or monthly roster or staffing schedule, and ensuring that all employees are paid regularly and in a timely manner. There are various software programs that can assist a manager in doing so.

  • Communication and feedback

Managers need to communicate regularly with staff about things, such as any changes occurring in the restaurant, new menus or procedures, or issues that require monitoring or resolution. This is best done through regular meetings with junior managers or the whole team.

As a manager, you also need to be able to listen to employees, and hear their feedback. They may have some good ideas about how to improve the business.

  • Maintaining a safe and happy workplace

Trained and competent hospitality staff are worth their weight in gold. If you don’t provide a safe, happy and healthy workplace for your staff, you may lose them.

  • Make sure you follow all Work Health and Safety (WHS) regulation
  • Ensure that staff are free from sexual harassment and discrimination in your workplace through clear no-tolerance policies and establishing an incident reporting and response procedure.
  • Care about your staff: be patient, professional, flexible and understanding. They have lives, too.
  • Create team spirit through work events and perks, such as free meals while they work.

4. Managing customer experience

In an era of Google ratings, Instagram influencers and online restaurant reviews, managing customer experience has never been more important. As a manager, you need to make sure customers have a good experience while dining in your restaurant, when making a booking, and when ordering food online. In particular, you need to:

  • Create a well-designed space and atmosphere in your restaurant
  • Be empathetic and respond quickly to customer feedback or complaints online
  • Respond empathetically to customer complaints in general
  • Offer loyalty programs or rewards

Customer experience management has grown from a niche area of hospitality business to an evolving and essential professional field. If you enrol in a hospitality management degree, make sure it offers Customer Experience Management as a core subject.

5. Standard Operating Procedures

Another important task of a manager is to ensure that the restaurant operations are kept humming along through a system of checklists, instructions and policies that provide guidance to staff on day-to-day tasks and workplace behaviour: these are a restaurant’s Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).

To set up and manage a restaurant’s SOPs, a manager needs to:

  • Develop checklists and procedural systems for staff to follow, such as for opening, closing and cleaning.
  • Write up all restaurant policies and procedures into an employee handbook.
  • Develop a system of checking, feedback or oversight to ensure policies and procedures are being followed.

6. Marketing and advertising

It doesn’t matter how great your food is if your customers don’t know you exist. Every restaurant needs marketing and advertising to reach local customers, grow your business and encourage a new audience to try your menu.

The restaurant manager is responsible for ensuring that the restaurant is reaching its audience through marketing. The first thing the manager needs to do is to develop a marketing strategy, including a marketing plan and a marketing and advertising budget. This will include such crucial information as:

  • Your restaurants target market
  • A competition analysis
  • Description of your restaurants Unique Selling Points (USPs)
  • Marketing channels
  • A calendar for your campaign rollout
  • Ideas for creative marketing strategies
  • Ideas for local community engagement
  • A social media marketing plan

Your marketing strategy will shape and guide your restaurant’s interactions with customers and local community as your business grows. It’s really important to do it well. Get professional advice if needed, or enrol in a course that covers these crucial topics. For example, the Bachelor of Business (Hospitality Management) at Torrens University covers Marketing Fundamentals as a core subject in the first year.

Remember, the restaurant manager does not need to do all the marketing work themselves: this is one area they can definitely delegate. The restaurant manager can hire a marketing company or freelance marketer to help with strategy, or get a social media manager intern or graduate to assist.

Alternatively, you can assign one of your staff who is a good digital communicator to manage your social media accounts and respond to reviews online.

7. Be a good leader

Finally, but most importantly, a restaurant manager must be a good leader. They must inspire and motivate their staff to work through stressful times, and create a working environment that will feel welcoming to customers. That means:

  • Leading by example and getting your hands dirty
  • Remaining calm, respectful and professional under pressure
  • Setting clear boundaries and being consistent with your demands
  • Being a good listener as well as a good communicator
  • Effectively managing time and multitasking
  • Taking responsibility for the success of the business
  • Treating staff with empathy and respect

Although these may sound like personal characteristics, these are in fact some of the very valuable soft skills that you will need to learn and practise in order to be an effective restaurant manager. When your staff like and respect you, they will work hard to see the business succeed. That’s what it means to be a good leader.

Guest contributor

Tags: Customer experience, managing staff, restaurant management, standard operating procedures


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