Written by Paul Gilbert

It’s a common belief that the life of a restaurant is in the hands of the chef behind the stove. And while the chef’s abilities to create tasty gastronomic goods are a vital part of any place that serves food, there is another position in the restaurant that holds the same amount of responsibilities, and is equally responsible for its success – namely the restaurant manager.

Whereas the chef is mostly occupied with what happens behind-the-scenes and in the kitchen, the responsibilities of the restaurant manager are different. This person is tasked with looking into every single aspect of the day-to-day operations – from marketing the restaurant, to the quality of the food.

Managers need to work hand in hand with chefs to come up with the right formula to bring in guests. According to Zea Proukou, these are the most important traits for a successful restaurant manager to have.

1. Profitable Thinking

The ultimate goal of a restaurant manager is to make profit for the restaurant and its’ owners. No one likes to be the one who has to consider price and profitability in every new dish or drink, but a good restaurant manager is painfully aware of the components of his products. At the same time, it is equally important that the manager keeps in mind that the most valuable resource in the restaurant is in fact the customers.

Without them, a business has no reason to exist, and a manager should be conscious of it. Sometimes making a calculated decision to not prioritize profit can fix an unpleasant situation or provide value to the customer that ensures he comes back for another visit. A satisfied customer will come again and/or recommend it to friends, family, coworkers. Nowadays, most restaurants are not just selling meals but a whole experience. Creating the atmosphere, storytelling and staging up a show for the clients can make a difference between a bad restaurant and a successful one.

 

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2. Physical Stamina

The best managers can stay on their feet all day long. Customers may not think about it, but being a manager in a busy restaurant can be both mentally and physically taxing. Healthy habits are required to be able to run around a restaurant daily and make sure that everyone provides great service. Sure, there’s no need to be a body-builder – but standing on your feet (almost) all day is different from a regular office job where you sit comfortable on your blue ergonomic chair from nine to five. Furthermore, during the high season, it can be mentally draining.

For a manager, it is really important to know and recognize his own limits, paying attention to the different signals that his mind is sending, avoiding a breakdown. In order to reach a better mindfulness of himself, a manager should find time for some physical activity. Besides a good workout, physical activity will act as a mental reset and a break from the hassle and stress of the restaurant. Meditation can also be a good method, not only to distract from the stress of the workplace, but also increasing self-awareness. A good rule to keep in mind is “the more you work with your mind, the less you work with your legs!”.

 

It’s tiring in a lot of ways. Certainly it’s physically draining, because when it’s hectic you run, run, run. I used to actually use a pedometer on my busier shifts just to see. You walk a lot, and blow through shoes. I used to work at a place where we would also have crazy parties and we’d be hoisting trays and plates, people were always blown away by how many plates I can carry on my arms. I’m like, “I’ve got ten years under my belt, guys. My right arm is super strong.”
Marie, restaurant manager in New York.

 

3. Thinking on your feet

No matter how good you are at your job, there will always be challenges and unexpected issues when you work in the service industry. When dealing with people on a daily basis, you can never completely guard yourself against all possible scenarios. For this reason, the ability to think on your feet and react accordingly is exceptionally important for a restaurant manager. He is the face of the restaurant and has to deal with all customer related issues. Besides customer complaints, his work also extends to other management related tasks such as marketing, logistics and managing his staff.
Furthermore, a manager has to be able to adapt to the different situations and challenges that he faces every day. Most of the time, similar scenarios have different solutions, and the signals are not always clear, especially for the inexperienced. Composure and the ability to keep cool in stressful situations are traits that cannot be underestimated in a restaurant manager. It is important to remember as much as possible about the people you are serving. Some people have special needs or requests, while some menus can be tricky to remember. Some customers like to be talked to, others want to be left alone – it is up to the waiter or manager to recognize the difference.
In this case, the best way to train your skills, is just work. Experience and dedication to give a great service to the clients is what will make the difference.

 

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4. Customer service savviness

The restaurant business is full of surprises and difficult, annoying customers. Some of them may have dietary concerns like allergies. Some may need a place to hold their lunch meetings at the last minute. A large group made a reservation that can barely fit in any of the dining areas. Or a group of people comes in 2 minutes before closing and orders the longest item to cook that’s available on the menu. All these can rattle an inexperienced manager.

For these reasons, a good manager needs to have the skills to read people. Not only clients, but also staff members, in order to create an environment that that encourages good service and a warm atmosphere. He knows that happy and collaborative staff can deliver a great service. One of the challenges of being a manager is also the mediation. While unsatisfied consumers can be turned around using a mix of psychology, charm and, if possible, something on the house, impartial mediation and talkative skills will maintain a good working environment even when tension arise, especially in stressful situations. As a leader, he must lead by example, understand the concerns of his staff and help them out as much as possible. Working in the restaurant industry can be mentally draining, and it’s important to have a manager who can assemble the troops and motivate his employees to produce their best work. It is really important, especially for a manager, to be able and willing to go the extra mile for both clients and colleagues.

5. Strong interpersonal skills

A tired wait staff and a super stressed kitchen crew are common things that a manager faces on a daily basis. He must have the right personality to counter and balance these challenges. He must be able to combine a pleasant way of talking to the staff with a results-driven approach to the business. When chaos happens, he must have the skill to gather everyone to work as a team, while simultaneously smiling and appearing to have everything under control in the eyes of the customer. Communication and collaboration are the most powerful weapons to restaurant staff.

6. The Golden Skill

The hospitality industry is both challenging and stressful. Decisions have to be made in a short amount of time, all the while trying to please as many people as possible. Therefore, a manager must be able to exploit all the skills mentioned above, pushing himself to the limit and raising the bar. To make everything easier for everyone, a restaurant manager must be armed with common sense. Being a master of the rational art will ease everyone else’s job – and that is the true goal of the restaurant manager.
Mediate with unsatisfied customers, recognizing the problems before they will become too hard to handle, not only with the patrons but also between the staff and try to fix aspects of the service are only few of the daily challenges that a restaurant manager have to face on a daily base and being rational and logical will give the solution to a many, if not all, of the problems.