How to Manage A Restaurant: 14 Restaurant Management Tips

In this comprehensive guide, you’ll get practical insights on how to effectively manage a restaurant. From maintaining consistency in decision-making to proactively handling staffing needs, learning the operation by doing the work yourself, prioritizing staff retention, and keeping customer satisfaction as the top goal, this article offers a variety of strategies designed to make your role as a restaurant manager more successful and less stressful.

Key takeaways:

  • Maintaining consistency in how you communicate, uphold rules, and manage expectations is crucial in a fast-paced restaurant environment.
  • Being a proactive manager involves foreseeing future needs and making decisions based on those anticipated needs.
  • Hands-on experience in different roles within your restaurant helps you better understand and solve problems.
  • Prioritizing staff retention is key in an industry where sufficient staffing is often the biggest challenge.
  • Enhancing customer satisfaction should be at the heart of every decision you make.

Managing a restaurant is like watching over the gears of a complicated machine. Not only do you have the usual managerial concerns of employees and customers, but you’re dealing with food service and the unique baggage that comes along with that.

As a new restaurant manager, this can be overwhelming. It’s a demand for psychology and artistry coming at you at 100 miles per hour. Improve your managerial skills with these helpful restaurant management tips:

1. Be consistent

No two days in a restaurant are the same. New crises pop up in a restaurant at the drop of a hat like no other business. Things move fast, and the worst thing a manager can do in that kind of situation is take an inconsistent approach to how he responds and resolves issues.

What do you need to be consistent in?

  • How you communicate
  • How you maintain rules
  • What your expectations are

When there’s a rush happening at the door and a small circus in the kitchen, your employees need to know that you are going to be consistent. Your consistency makes it possible for them to handle the high stress loads without cracking.

For more leadership tips, check out: 31 Team Leader Skills Every Manager Should Have

2. Manage proactively

In the restaurant business, things come at you fast. You need to be proactive and stay ahead of the curve instead of being reactive. This means that you look and work in the future, not in the current moment, for managing decisions such as:

  • Staffing needs
  • Menu changes and updates
  • Marketing campaigns
  • Inventory
  • Spotting consumer trends
  • Updating technology
  • Schedule changes

If you’re not proactive, you won’t manage the restaurant, it’ll manage you.

Managing time off requests fairly begins with a clear and easy way to track them. Download our free time off request form to get started.

Related: 3 Steps To Control Your Hospitality Labor Costs

3. Learn the operation by doing the work yourself

As a manager, the more actual experience you have in working the business, the better you will be in problem-solving when something goes haywire.

Be a manager who isn’t afraid to get your hands dirty, who knows how the kitchen operates, what the cooks are dealing with, and the stresses of the servers. Talk to your employees about what they do and why they use the methods they use. You’ll gain respect (and knowledge) from your employees and have a better foundation for making decisions that affect them and the customers they are serving.

4. Prioritize staff retention

According to a recent survey, 78% of restaurant managers and owners said that they don’t have enough staff to support customer demand. That means hiring, training, and then retaining staff is their number one challenge.

Not sales. Not inventory. Not trends. Staffing.

Make staff retention a priority. Constantly replacing staff is a huge expense in an industry that already has tight profit margins. Customers in restaurants come for the experience, and part of that experience is becoming comfortable with the staff they expect to see at their regular haunt. One way to increase staff retention is by prioritizing worker-centric systems, such as employee scheduling.

Build the work schedule in minutes, communicate with employees, and handle schedule changes with ease with When I Work.

5. Mix it up with a fun promotion experiment

Keeping your work environment fun and fresh is a great way to increase employee retention. Create cross-functional teams to build morale and help workers get to know each other better. Then have them compete in fun, low-stakes contests where everyone comes out as a winner. 

Make sure not to add stress to your employees’ plates, but instead offer up something fun to make the shift more enjoyable.  

6. Keep your eye on customer satisfaction

Managing customer expectations in any business is difficult, but a restaurant tops that list. You’re dealing with everything from food preferences, dietary issues, traffic flow in the restaurant, irate customers, last-minute reservations, and people who show up to eat five minutes before you’re ready to close.

Customer satisfaction is the end goal for every decision you make when a customer issue pops up. How you go about getting that satisfaction may vary, but the end result is always the same. No joke: a basic understanding of psychology wouldn’t hurt.

One word of caution: get to customer satisfaction without sacrificing your staff. Protect your staff from customer tempers and wrath. Remember, you don’t want to lose staff, either.

7. Improve the customer experience

The restaurant industry now commands one third of the food dollar in the United States. That’s a lot of people eating out instead of cooking at home.

There are practical reasons for this shift from a budget for grocery over to eating out (e.g. don’t want to cook at home because of convenience issues). But there’s more to it than convenience.

Food isn’t just food. According to the National Restaurant Association, 56% of surveyed adults said they’d rather spend money on an experience than simply going to the store to buy food. You might think you’re merely managing the preparation and delivery of food, but you’re also managing the customer experience.

It’s easy to get caught up in the obvious concerns of good food and efficiency, but if you lack concern for the overall experience your diners are having, you miss the big picture. Managing customer experience involves a mix of ambiance, cleanliness (restrooms especially!), friendly staff, fair prices, unique food, and even no-fuss no-wait seating. If people are willing to pay to eat out because they are looking for experiences, a grumpy server or 40-minute wait at the door won’t impress.

8. Take word-of-mouth seriously

The most popular way people choose a restaurant is by word-of-mouth from friends (78%). The second most popular? Social media. These are essentially the same in that they originate not from your message (what you control) but what others say about you.

Online reviews matter. Making a unique and memorable experience that gets people to talk about your restaurant matters. Having a social media presence matters (as long as you can manage it well). Monitoring what is said about your restaurant on social media matters.

And remember, word-of-mouth can go both ways. It can be positive, or it can be negative.

9. Keep an eye out for reviews on the web

When people are considering your restaurant, often one of the first things they’ll do is check online reviews. If you’re not watching to see what people are saying about you online, you’re missing a wealth of feedback and ideas on how to improve your business. You might even be surprised about what you’ll find. 

Online reviews are a great way to see what you’re doing well and what you should think about changing. You might even find some great suggestions on how to add to the atmosphere or menu of your restaurant. 

10. Invest in advertising

A restaurant can’t live by word-of-mouth alone.

You will still need advertising. You need signs, you need print ads, you need online ads—advertising is especially important in a competitive market or when you are a new restaurant.

As a manager, the trick is to establish a budget and stick with it. Obvious, sure, but a smart advertising budget is built on gathering data that fits the needs of your restaurant. You have to be gathering necessary data. That includes:

  • Demographics (Who eats at your restaurant? Advertise where they are. Social media ads can work well and have ample audience targeting capabilities.)
  • Trends
  • Sales (Including peak times and seasons)
  • Food trends

That kind of data is useful for many of the decisions you make about your restaurant, but it’s vital if you want to avoid throwing money away on thoughtless advertising.

Related: 4 Steps To Write A Successful Restaurant Business Plan [+ Free Template]

11. Take care of your health

After all of the usual managerial tips, this one is the most forgotten: take care of yourself.

This sounds odd, but let’s be realistic: restaurant work is hard work. A restaurant manager isn’t sitting at a desk lording over everyone all day. They’re out there on the floor, in the thick of it, pulling long hours, standing on their feet, pinch-hitting in multiple roles.

It’s tiring. And physical weariness can lead to emotional and mental weariness.

Take care of your health, and stay fit. Your staff and restaurant will thank you for it.

12. Find a mentor

Many of the best restaurant management tips will come from someone who actually has experience in the food service industry. Find someone who’s already covered the ground you’re facing. If you can’t find one in person, go to websites like Quora, or Reddit. Find forums where managers are asking and sharing.

And remember, don’t lose your head in what doesn’t matter. Keep the big picture—customer experience—always at the forefront. Everything must point to that one main thing.

13. Create a positive and engaging work environment

When it comes to creating a positive and engaging work environment, incorporating fun into the daily routine can be a great way to boost morale, increase productivity, and create a sense of camaraderie among employees.

This is something that’s easy to overlook. As long as the right food is being delivered to the right customers, it feels like everything is going right. But you’ll be missing a key ingredient in your restaurant—happy employees. Your restaurant workers are the face of your business, and they are directly responsible for the customer experience. Make sure you’re focused on creating a positive environment workers want to be a part of—you’ll have better employee engagement, better staff retention, and a better customer experience to show for it.

Related: 37 Employee Appreciation Ideas Your Staff Will Love

14. Invest in employee-first systems and technology

There are many tools you can use to keep employees engaged and attract people to work for you. Right now, workers want flexible scheduling. It may sound complicated, but it can actually be a huge time-saver for you. Getting started with flexible scheduling is easier than you think. You can try it free with a 14-day trial of When I Work, which is a great scheduling software for restaurants.

To find the best restaurant management technology for your business, check out: Essential Apps For Restaurant Management

Managing a restaurant is complex and demanding at best. It requires a unique combination of psychology, artistry, and technical skills to be successful. Restaurant managers need to be consistent in communication, rule-making, and expectations. Plus, it’s crucial to be proactive in managing the various aspects of the business and to gain a deep understanding of the day-to-day operations by working alongside your employees. By prioritizing staff retention, experimenting with fun promotions, keeping an eye on customer satisfaction, and constantly seeking ways to improve the customer experience, you can set your restaurant up for success. 

Employee scheduling software can take the stress out of managing your restaurant staff. When I Work lets you easily create, edit, and share schedules, manage time-off requests and shift trades, and receive real-time notifications for any changes. Try When I Work for free with a 14-day trial.

FAQs: Restaurant management

Q: What are some essential tips for successful restaurant management?

A: Maintain consistency in communication, rules, and expectations. Proactively manage various aspects like staffing, menu changes, and inventory. Get hands-on experience in different roles. Prioritize staff retention; and always focus on improving customer satisfaction.

Q: How can I improve staff retention as a restaurant manager?

A: Prioritize creating a positive and engaging work environment. This includes being considerate of your employees’ scheduling preferences and providing opportunities for skill development and advancement. Employee-centric scheduling and promoting a healthy work culture can also greatly improve staff retention.

Q: How can customer satisfaction be enhanced by restaurant management?

A: You can increase customer satisfaction by always prioritizing the customers’ experience. This involves providing excellent service, ensuring high-quality food, creating a comfortable ambiance, dealing with customer complaints effectively, and making improvements based on customer feedback.

Q: What is the role of proactive management in restaurant management?

A: Proactive management plays a critical role in restaurant management. It involves planning ahead and making decisions based on future needs such as staffing, menu changes, marketing campaigns, and inventory management. It also includes spotting consumer trends and adapting accordingly. Proactive management helps you stay ahead of the curve and mitigate potential challenges.

Q: How can restaurant management balance customer satisfaction and staff welfare?

A: Balancing customer satisfaction and staff welfare involves creating a positive work environment that encourages staff performance while prioritizing excellent customer service. This balance can be achieved by protecting staff from unreasonable customer complaints, giving staff adequate rest and fair scheduling, and encouraging a positive service attitude. It is important to understand that satisfied employees often lead to satisfied customers.

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