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How to Hire and Cultivate Independent Restaurant Managers

How many times have you interviewed someone who seemed like the most perfectly qualified restaurant manager, only to later discover they have a major attitude problem or you can’t trust them? 

Or have you found your ideal first mate, only for them to move on too soon?

You’re not alone. Hiring is hard at the best of times. Finding a trustworthy restaurant manager you can count on when you’re not around is tough, especially when record numbers of restaurant workers have left the industry.

We looked into what makes a great manager—and the reasons why top managers don’t always stick around—to bring you tips and tricks that will help you find and keep your perfect first mate.

Read on to discover:

  • Traits to look for in a reliable restaurant manager
  • How to onboard and train staff who’ll stick around so you can promote from within
  • How to hire a great manager externally
  • Tools to help you communicate and collaborate with your manager so they can do their best when you’re not around

By the last paragraph, you’ll be ready to build a staff culture that produces great managers. Plus, you’ll have the tools and tactics to keep trusted managers around so you can take time off with confidence.

What Does a Great Independent Restaurant Manager Look Like?

The best hiring managers know that attitude, values, and work ethic are more important than hard skills. That’s because a great attitude, values that align with the company, and hard work are exactly the traits you need to learn new skills, become proficient at managing a team, offer a great customer experience, and help the restaurant grow.

Here are traits to look for when hiring a reliable restaurant manager:

  • Great Communicator Your manager is the go-between for you and the restaurant team. They need to be able to listen and understand what you want, and effectively communicate that to their team. You also need to know that they are listening to employees and giving you honest feedback. 
  • Takes Ownership of Mistakes — A good manager is not afraid to admit when they mess up. They learn from their mistakes and don’t get defensive or make excuses when confronted.
  • Decisive A restaurant manager needs to make decisions fast. Look for someone who doesn’t hem and haw, but makes a decision and sticks by it.
  • Patient Patience is crucial for a restaurant manager, in their interactions with both customers and employees.
  • Multitasker They must be able to juggle multiple responsibilities without getting bogged down in day-to-day tasks.
  • Leader A manager needs to delegate, give clear instructions, and hold employees accountable, while also leading by example and doing hands-on work in the restaurant. They aren’t too good to fill in for a dishwasher or sweep up a mess, but they also know when to send someone else to do the job.

How to Find Your Right-Hand Manager 

Promote from Within When Possible

The best place to find employees that you know would make great managers is your existing team. They already know the restaurant, they know you, and you know their strengths and weaknesses. 

They might not have all the skills and experience right now to excel in the role, but those can be developed. The time and resources you save by not having to onboard and train someone new can be spent on training the internal hire to be a great manager.

At Chipotle, which famously has a strong internal promotion culture, high-performing managers are selected to become “restaurateurs”—a title that comes with stock options, a $100,000 salary, and a $10,000 bonus every time one of their employees becomes a manager. Execs have found that their best, longest-serving managers are those that started as hourly employees.

Start with Your Onboarding Process

Often, when a restaurant is short-staffed, hiring becomes more desperate. When your team is already stretched, the last thing they want to do is show newbies the ropes.

But it’s crucial to make new staff feel welcome and to train them well. Otherwise, they’ll just quit, leaving you back where you started, minus hiring costs.

To cultivate a steady supply of potential managers that you can promote, set up a strong and consistent onboarding program. Refresh your training manuals, provide a welcome packet, and make sure every new hire gets to shadow an experienced team member before they are thrown into the deep end.

Without a strong start, you will lose potential managers before they have a chance to learn the job and feel like they’re part of the team.

Ask for Referrals 

If a person gets along with someone you get along with, they might be a good fit for your team. That’s why personal recommendations are so highly prized.

88% of restaurant owners polled said that referrals are the most effective way to hire and 70% agreed that referrals make a great culture fit. Referrals tend to cost less to hire, get up to speed quicker, and stay 70% longer than job board hires.

Ask trusted industry friends, former colleagues, current employees, or even friends and family for recommendations. You can even formalize the process by incentivizing employees to refer their friends with cash rewards for those referred hires who are successful.

Write a Compelling Job Description

If you don’t have anyone suitable to promote, you’ll need to look elsewhere. That usually means writing a job description and posting it online. 

Here’s what a good job description should achieve:

  • Lay Out the Responsibilities of the Role Be specific and clear about what exactly is expected of the candidate. 
  • List Required Previous Experience Tell them how many years you expect the perfect candidate to have worked in similar roles.
  • Sell the Opportunity — Get candidates excited about working for you by telling them about your culture, high standards, and opportunities to progress.
  • Present Your Restaurant in the Best Light Check spelling and grammar thoroughly. Get a fresh pair of eyes to take a look before you post the job description online.
  • List Your Perks and Benefits — This is your opportunity to gush about the great salary, bonuses, and holiday allowance, as well as any free meals, team nights out, and other perks you offer.
  • Screen Out Unsuitable Candidates You want to sell the role but don’t sugarcoat. To weed out unsuitable candidates, be honest about the hard work and commitment required.

You could also follow the lead of Five Guys, which includes a video on its careers page that shows a day in the life of a general manager at one of its restaurants.

Putting a little extra effort into writing your job description could save hours you might have spent contacting and interviewing unsuitable candidates.

Lay Out a Path for Success

Ambitious employees want to know where they are headed. They want a goal to aim for to justify their hard work and sacrifices. Laying out a roadmap for success will help them get excited about growing with your company—rather than moving on somewhere else that offers a better future.

Shake Shack provides a roadmap for employees that shows them the path from hourly employee right up to general manager. It lays out all the steps to get there, including the results, qualifications, and training needed to gain each promotion.

The fast-casual burger brand’s Director of Learning and Talent Development Jenifer Calcamuggi explains how the Stepping Up progression map is implemented from day one: “It’s a career progression map that all of our hourly workers begin at onboarding. It really demonstrates what’s needed to advance every single step of the way.”

Keep an Eye on Key Metrics

To assess who’s suitable to become a restaurant manager and gain a promotion, you need to pay attention to performance metrics. These can also be used to set targets and keep your manager motivated and on track. 

Here are the top metrics to keep track of:

  • Sales Revenue The most fundamental measure of success. Your manager’s primary goal is to ensure revenue targets are met.
  • Food Cost Percentage — This measures the cost of ingredients as a percentage of revenue to tell you how efficient your operations are. Most restaurants aim for 30–40%. When it is too high, you know something needs to change.
  • Labor Cost Percentage — Similarly, your labor cost as a percentage of sales is a measure of whether or not your manager is getting the scheduling balance right. A rate of 20–35% is considered normal.
  • Customer Satisfaction This is a little less tangible to measure, but online reviews, complaints, and food waste from plates being sent back give you an idea of whether customers are satisfied.
  • Employee Turnover Rate If staff regularly quit, that is a sign of poor management.

If you and your manager can access all of these metrics on the go, it saves a lot of time and helps keep everyone on the same page—promoting a culture of accountability, motivation, and better results.

Empower Managers to be Independent Operators

Once you’ve established better hiring and onboarding practices, and learned to recognize great leaders on your team, you can equip your managers to make decisions on their own and give them the tools to operate independently.

HungerRush 360 is a centralized platform where both you and your manager can access data and manage operations from anywhere. You can oversee data and identify trends together to find areas of improvement and monitor business health and growth, allowing you to take time off without worrying that everything will fall apart in your absence.

Get HungerRush 360 for your restaurant.

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