If you’re new to restaurant management, figuring out where to begin can be daunting. Your tasks often include handling community outreach, mediating staff conflicts, crunching inventory numbers, meeting customer expectations, and more, all while making sure both the front and back of house run smoothly. From prioritizing to delegating, restaurant managers need to tap into a variety of skills to be successful. Luckily, we’re here to help!
We’ve got a few restaurant management tips that will help you feel confident tackling the next steps of your career in this fast-paced industry.
1. Ensure your staff feels valued
It’s no secret that employee turnover is a problem for most restaurants. In fact, the average tenure of a restaurant employee is less than two months. Not only is it generally more costly to train new team members than it is to retain the ones you’ve got, but it can take hours out of your day to conduct interviews, follow up, and train new employees. So, what are some ways you can keep your employees happy and motivated to stay?
If you don’t already have one, consider starting an “Employee of the Month” program. Make sure the winning employee gets a bonus check, gift card, or something valuable to signal their achievement and motivate others to follow suit. You can also practice open-book management to foster more transparency and loyalty among your staff. This is when a company is transparent to employees about the company’s financial information, profitability, profit sharing, and educational classes. It can also allow your staff to feel more valued by you as a manager.
Particularly during busy seasons, it never hurts to offer a free meal for employees working double shifts, or give everyone a gift card during the holidays as an incentive for a job well done. You can also have set incentives for those who stay with you for certain amounts of time, like three months, six months, a year, and so on. It can be monetary, or something like a higher schedule priority or free monthly dessert.
2. Revamp your menu on a seasonal basis
Sure, having signature dishes is a great way to keep customers coming back — but so is switching things up. Even just revamping your menu for each season helps your kitchen keep things fresh, and makes it easier to work with local farms and suppliers who grow different fruits, veggies, and herbs, depending on the season.
During summer, peaches and zucchini are great additions to a salad or appetizer. During winter, Brussels sprouts and carrots can really liven up an entree or side dish. Using seasonal, local ingredients will not only keep your restaurant menu (or kitchen) from feeling stale, but you’ll likely be able to save money on transportation costs you’d normally pay to import items.
3. Be thoughtful about marketing
Often, part of managing a restaurant also means helping to drive new customers through your doors. One of the most effective ways to do this is by having a solid restaurant marketing strategy. Social media, in particular, is ideal when it comes to restaurant marketing. It’s either free or much cheaper than more traditional marketing outlets, like television commercials or print ads. Not to mention, it’s relatively easy to maintain a good social presence.
It’s also wise to have a well-maintained presence on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. The ideal frequency of posts varies across each platform, but at least once a week is a good place to start.
Once you’ve got the handle of regular posting, don’t forget to interact with your customers who message, comment, and like your posts on these channels. It’s another way to convey the feel of your brand, make fans feel special, and show your authenticity. If you’ve got the budget, you can also leverage paid social media ads to spread brand awareness about your restaurant and target certain audiences. They’re also easier to track — win-win.
4. Train employees to expect the unexpected
“The customer is always right” is a classic phrase that is commonly thrown around in the restaurant business. But, depending on your customer’s demeanor, it can certainly be easier said than done. Your diners provide the revenue your eatery needs to stay afloat, so it’s important to do everything you can (within reason) to ensure they have a positive experience.
Make sure all of your staff know how to respond when someone asks about menu modifications for dietary restrictions. They should also know what to do in response to angry or out-of-line customers (alert the on-duty manager), and people who show up to your restaurant 10 minutes before you’re about to close (seat them and let the kitchen know how many people are in the party). Restaurant managers have to handle it all, so the more you prepare your team for a variety of scenarios, the better.
5. Suggest hosting events
As a manager, you’re affected by how much revenue your restaurant brings in. Looking for creative ways to give your bottom line a boost? If you have a private or semi-private dining area that can hold groups of eight or more people, let higher-ups know that they should consider renting out those spaces for events, if they’re not already. Events can quickly fill up your calendar if you’re struggling to meet sales goals. If you’re worried about accommodating events and regular customers at the same time, you can always start off by only hosting events during times you’re normally closed or slow.
If you’re just starting out and want to drum up some initial interest through introductory deals:
- Give a discount to customers who want to rent out your space on a weeknight
- Offer 10 percent off to someone who books a party within the first three months of your new events program launching
- Send a gift card or a nice bottle of champagne if a client’s referral books within three months
If you already have a program and want to make sure your customers know about it, add a page on your website with the latest event info and photos of previous events held in your space (with permission from your clients). This page is also a great place to highlight that your space is ideal for multiple event types, like rehearsal dinners, birthday parties, and corporate events. You could even slip a small, well-designed piece of paper with event info into check presenters, to encourage diners to host events in your space.
6. Make tracking sales and inventory easier
Number crunching is often part of a restaurant manager’s day-to-day work life. In addition to tracking sales from dining reservations and events, you have to keep up with food and bar inventory, customer counts, payroll costs, and more. One way to help you accomplish this in an organized way is through a point-of-sale (POS) system. Depending on the type of system you choose, you can change menus, access up-to-date reports, manage online ordering, and predict future sales trends, all in one place. POS systems are typically cloud-based, so that means you can work on-the-go instead of being tied to your desktop.
We know what you’re thinking: Manual inventory is traditionally time-consuming. Luckily, advances in tech mean there are inventory management solutions that automate the process, which saves serious time and increases margins to boot.
7. Experiment with fun promotions
If you’re in a state that permits hosting happy hours, this can be a prime opportunity for your restaurant to bring in additional sales. Happy hours, which typically fall on weekdays between 4-7 p.m., are ideal for people who are getting off of work and looking to meet up with coworkers or friends for a quick drink before heading home. Come up with a few easy-to-make drinks and appetizers that are discounted to entice customers, like half-off nachos or $5 margaritas. You can even go as far as to create full happy hour menus.
You can also work with a deal site (like Groupon) to raise more awareness for your brand. You’ll bring in more customers through your doors, and they might even tell their friends about it. Many restaurants have seen success through creating special promotions based on things like:
- Sporting events
- City-specific themes
- Pop-culture references (a Stranger Things-themed cocktail to celebrate its latest season? Yes, please.)
8. Pay attention to online reviews
As a restaurant manager, your company’s reputation should be something you keep tabs on. Did you know that word of mouth and website reviews are the biggest factors that help people choose a restaurant? Knowing how to get and leverage positive reviews while making a good impression on your customers can have a huge impact on your online presence.
Make sure your Yelp, TripAdvisor and Facebook pages are all up to date, then read through what your customers are saying about you. Word of mouth can be both positive or negative, so staying on top of it and checking reviews on a daily basis (and responding when appropriate) will help you have a good handle on how your brand is being perceived.
9. Save money where you can
Monitoring cash flow is a big part of a restaurant manager’s job. And one way to tangibly showcase that you’re doing your job well is by finding creative ways to help your company save money. For example, you can:
- Suggest switching your light bulbs to more energy-efficient ones — as long as it doesn’t sacrifice the dining room ambiance
- Swap out your current faucets with low-flow faucets, particularly in customer bathrooms, to save money on water
- Let your back-of-house staff know that they should only run the dishwasher when it’s completely full (if they’re running out of dishes before this happens, that’s a whole other issue to address)
Look at your menu as an area of your restaurant that can help you cut costs. Are there items that aren’t selling well? Remove them, and hit “refresh” on your offerings.
10. Find a mentor
It’s no easy task to manage a restaurant alone. One of the best tips we’ve heard is to partner with someone who has experience as a general manager and who can guide you through the process. From handling irate customers to the easiest ways to train your staff and make sure they stay happy, they’ll have some tricks up their sleeves that they can pass down to you. If you can’t think of anyone who you can meet with on a regular basis to teach you the ropes, the internet is your second-best bet. Using Facebook groups or forums to ask people in the restaurant industry their advice is sure to help you become a better restaurant manager.
11. Make work fun!
Plenty of experts taut the importance of fostering bonds with your team members and ensuring they feel valued from day one. And while no efficient workplace is all fun and games, if every employee is dreading their shift, something is very wrong. Do casual pulse checks, be open to thoughtful criticism, and truly listen to what your team is saying about their job experience.
No manager is perfect, and there’s no way to be prepared for all the unexpected hiccups that can occur at your eatery. But there are certain strategies and traits you can adopt that’ll help make sure you’re doing your job to the best of your ability — and to the benefit of your staff and the company as a whole.
Now that you know how to manage a restaurant, see how our software can help you manage your events program. Schedule a demo at a time and date that works for you to learn more about how Tripleseat can help you build and streamline your events and private dining business.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on the Gather blog and written by Holly Edwards.