Managing people and holding them accountable is one of the hardest things to do, especially in a restaurant. As a restaurant owner or manager, learning how to do this effectively is a game-changer. It allows you to trust the restaurant is being run how you want, even when you’re not there. Unfortunately, accountability tends to have a negative tone to it. Let me help you change the meaning of that word to create a positive work environment where your management team excels and appreciates you holding them accountable.

The rudimentary meaning of “accountability” is “answerability.” It’s the acknowledgment of responsibility for your obligations, decisions and actions and how you are answerable for the resulting consequences. In a restaurant management setting:

Obligations are to perform your job to a specific list of expectations.

Decisions are what you make based on your obligations.

Actions are what you do as a result of your decisions, which are ultimately the basis for what you will be answerable for.

The key to this is not only a specific list of expectations, it’s that the list is clearly defined! This is where most independent restaurants fall down. And with this in mind, this is why managers cringe when hearing the phrase, “hold them accountable.” It’s because the owner or general manager has not been clear on their expectations of their management team. 

So when your management team hears that you are going to start holding them accountable, they think, “That SUCKS!” or “Whatever.” Because in the past there hasn’t been clarity, and accountability was just an owner or GM getting louder in expressing how unhappy they are that the manager didn’t do something they didn’t honestly know that they had to do or how to do it. 

Let’s take a look at what a restaurant looks like when expectations are clear. It’s a completely different scenario.

When your management team knows what the job is, how to do it and how well you want it done, you have a management team that gets things done, meets expectations and ultimately makes you money and makes you happy.

Here are just a few examples of ways to set expectations for your management:

• Provide job descriptions that clearly state what the job is, how to do it and how well you want it done.

• Create a training system that ensures they learn the job so clearly when going through training, that they can do it on their own without supervision or help after training is complete.

• A restaurant budget that gives management a target to shoot for and gives them a road map to what systems need to be put into place to achieve those numbers.

• A weekly/monthly budget variance report comparing budget to actual numbers giving management a clear financial report card that will guide them on to what systems need to be reviewed and what new systems need to be put in place.

• Detailed checklists in every position! These are the foundation to clearly defining expectations in EVERY position in the restaurant. This allows both management and staff to do exactly what’s expected without any conflict. Because there is no such thing as common sense. You have to tell them exactly what needs to be done and how to do it.

• Changing how YOU the owner or GM looks at accountability. Instead of answerability, look at it as an opportunity to coach, to becoming a partner in your management team’s success, to becoming a trainer, not just a parent who only scolds their children to teach them lessons.

• Not just taking a manager’s word that they accomplished a task or did what you asked them to do. Instead of accepting the answer of yes it was done, say “great, show me.” Now you put yourself in a position to see that is was done and if not—or not done to your standards—gives you the opportunity to coach for success.

When you make it clear to your team that change is a good thing, that the little details matter, that being clear on expectations is the norm, they will no longer think accountability is a bad thing. Your team will no longer see accountability as something that is dreadful and difficult. Shift your company culture from answerability to providing opportunities. And the end opportunity for you is to coach your way to both financial and personal success!