The Bottom Line
Tips on Leading a Great Restaurant Staff
Any successful restaurant—and really any business entity in general—boils back down to its people. As an owner, manager, head chef or any other authoritative figure, the power is in your hands to lead your team to greatness.
This analogy has been used many times, but think of your interactions with your staff as a form of currency. Positive interactions are a form of money in your pocket, which you can use whenever you need your people to give a little something extra. If you run out of this theoretical cash, you may not get the performance you’re looking for.
Take a few of the items below into consideration for managing your team:
Know your people
Too many managers [across the business world] fail to see the human aspect of their business. There’s a living, breathing person behind every position you’ve filled, and establishing a personal connection with them is the easiest way to not only get a better grasp of your operation, but to also get your staff to feel valued in their roles.
Take 30 minutes to sit down with each of your staff. In these one-on-ones, ask them about their hobbies, their families and their motivators. Hone in on the motivators, as these will be your fuel for fostering positive performance over time. Listen more than you speak. You’ll gain tremendous insight and build rapport at the same time.
Recognize positive performance in real-time, or soon thereafter. Do this often with every staff member. It doesn’t have to be a landmark moment to receive praise; of course recognize a server when they win an upsell contest, but it can be as little as handling a tough table or making a timely decision in the kitchen.
Be sure to note whether each staff member prefers to be praised publicly or privately. Some people don’t like to be called out in front of their peers, even if it’s for something great.
Point the finger on yourself first
Plates get dropped and orders get botched. It’s unfortunate, but accidents happen. An easy go-to would be to scold the perpetrator. “How could you let this happen?!” you could yell.
But instead, why not ask yourself “How could I let this happen?”
Mistakes often have a root for their cause. A server could have dropped those plates because they’re handling 20 more covers than they should be taking on. That goes back to the top, where management is responsible for providing their staff with the environment and resources they need to succeed.
Get in the trenches when needed
Managers truly stand out when they take orders, serve tables and take the burden off their staff. Head chefs stand out when they join the line. Taking the burden off your staff during rush periods, while maintaining your core responsibilities, goes a long way. This shows staff that you don’t think you’re “above them,” and while you may remain higher in the pecking order, you’re also perceived as an equal in many regards.
This goodwill will serve you well when you do need to ask people to go above and beyond. They know you’ve got their back, so they’ll
Take a breath when things heat up
The hospitality industry comes with a constant influx of high-pressure situations. Being that caring, compassionate leader is most important during the toughest times. When the kitchen gets backed up or the hostess is dealing with an endless line, this otherwise stressful situation is your time to shine.
Barking orders and singling people out can often be the go-to for mangers already pulling their hair out. Acting on the ‘easy way out’ will sadly undo a lot of goodwill you may have built up. Game-changing leaders, on the other hand, will remain calm and give constructive guidance. Help your people through the tough times and their productivity will skyrocket.
Each of these items will work differently at your restaurant, and of course each of your staff will respond differently to these various tactics. It’s critical to be genuine in your efforts, as just ‘going through the motions’ will be a waste of time for everyone involved. If you go the extra mile, your staff will be motivated to do the same.