Toast Restaurant Blog

Welcome to the best thing since sliced bread: bite-sized restaurant content to inspire, inform, and indulge in. Go ahead, help yourself.

Not sure where to start? Click here.

Join our community of 25,000+ restaurant professionals.
Subscribe today for daily tips and insights on restaurant trends.

How to Manage Multiple Restaurant Locations in the 21st Century

Posted by Jessica Reimer on 9/12/18 5:00 PM in Restaurant Management

6 minute read Print

How to Manage Multiple Restaurants

Right now there are over 1 million restaurant locations in the U.S.

How many of them are yours?

For some restaurateurs, one is enough; others, however, dream of more. Whether you’re ready to expand your one-and-only, grow an existing franchise, or explore a new culinary concept altogether, managing multiple restaurants comes with a special set of challenges.

At the end of the day, you might have fifteen restaurants, but there will only ever be one of you. So, how can you ensure your fifteenth is every bit as successful as your first? 

Read on for actionable advice on how to manage multiple restaurant locations.

Common Challenges Multi-Unit Managers Face

Growing a healthy, thriving, multi-unit restaurant operation requires time, money, and resources — often even more than you’d expect.

With that, a word of caution: know before you grow. Not sure if you’re making the right move? Ask yourself:

  1. Do my financials support expansion? Your social media following might be off the charts, but if sales are an ongoing struggle, now might not be the best time to venture into a new neighborhood, city, or state.

  2. Am I willing to relinquish (some) control? Above all else, managing multiple restaurant locations requires a willingness and ability to delegate. Because micromanaging removes accountability, squashes creativity, and discourages future participation, you’ll need to get comfortable trusting your business in the hands of people other than yourself.

If you answered “yes” to both these questions (and have a rock solid restaurant business plan in place) — good on you! You’ve laid the foundation that will make navigating the challenges of managing multiple restaurants (and trust me, there will be challenges) significantly less stressful.  

Here are four such challenges you can expect to face as you expand your restaurant operation, along with some tips to protect your sanity and bottom line.

Challenge #1: Balancing Time and Attention

It’s easy to become so swept up in the excitement of growing your business that you start to overlook and even exclude the places and people that came before it.

Yes, you’ve proven you have what it takes to create a successful bar or restaurant, but failing to give each unit proper, ongoing TLC can negatively impact sustainability. 

New Call-to-action

You’ll also want to pay special mind to how many resources you are pulling from your first location over to your second – whether temporarily or permanently. Experienced staff are some of your best brand ambassadors and can help make onboarding new team members a breeze, but taking too many for too long might compromise the quality of service guests receive at your flagship establishment.

Understanding there will likely be a heavier time and energy investment upfront for a new location, you should plan to divide your time between locations as best you can by scheduling regular visits. These visits offer the opportunity to give and receive feedback based on observational data around how employees, supervisors, and customers are interacting with one another and with the physical space. 

Challenge #2: Managing Overall Performance

Becoming a successful multi-unit restaurant manager means shifting from day-to-day operations into company-wide, big picture issues. Suddenly, you’re concerning yourself not only with sales at one location but how sales across all locations are impacting the company’s health.

The key takeaway here is not to be afraid of technology. In fact, technology in the form of handhelds drastically improved operations at Odd Duck in Austin, Texas – raising revenue by $500,000 and server tips by $7,000 annually. 

 


When it comes to monitoring and managing performance, technology is your friend! Investing in cloud-based software for features like inventory management, point of sale (POS), and
restaurant employee scheduling gives you instant and full visibility of how things are going.

Challenge #3: Creating a Consistent Restaurant Experience 

We’ve talked about streamlining, but now let’s move to consistency.

This is mission critical from a brand standpoint; especially if you’re opening up a second location, your customers will already have set expectations for your bar or restaurant.

When a guest walks through your doors, they receive more than a burger or a cocktail – they’re part of an experience. It’s important you do everything in your power to meet those expectations and make it the best experience possible. 

New Call-to-action

When it comes to a consistent restaurant and guest experience, standardizing your operational procedures is key. It’s important you spend the time documenting everything — from hiring and firing processes to employee training manuals, recipes, cleaning and maintenance checklists, and how to manage customer complaints.

No stone left unturned.   

To be clear: consistency does not mean inflexibility. Oftentimes, a case can be made in favor of personalization (though this should be treated as the exception, not the rule). Here is when you can really draw on the knowledge and input of your local management teams to decide on things like location-specific promotions, menu items, or a unique twist in decor.

Challenge #4: Maintaining Open Lines of Communication

Managing many locations requires much communication on your end; that way, the people you’ve hired have the information and tools they need to put their skills to work.

Even if your restaurants are geographically spread out, staying connected to your teams has never been easier. Sure, face time is great, but so is FaceTime! There are so many user-friendly, cost-effective video and text-based communication tools out there that keep the dialogue open and ongoing, allowing for virtual check-ins between in-person visits and company-wide collaborations.   

Open, honest, and ongoing communication between yourself, your management team, and their staff creates a sense of cohesion that is valuable both from a profitability standpoint (there is a proven relationship between engagement and revenue) and for a healthy workplace culture.

But remember: you’re a coach, not an autocrat. While it’s important to set expectations early around managers’ decision-making authority, too much force and not enough flexibility can cause your team to feel disconnected and disengaged. 

Want more tips for managing multiple restaurants?
Download the Restaurant Expansion Checklist below.

checklist

toast restaurant management blog

Written by: Jessica Reimer

Jessica Reimer is the Content Producer for 7shifts, an employee scheduling app designed for restaurant based in beautiful Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. She works with the rest of the 7shifts marketing team to help their customers all over the world save time scheduling, reduce labor costs, and improve communication in their businesses. Jessica has authored feature pieces and blog posts for a number of provincial, national, and international publications and specializes in psychology, community engagement, lifestyle, and business communications.


Leave a comment today. 

DISCLAIMER: All of the information contained on this site (the “Content”) is provided for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal, accounting, tax, career or other professional advice. The Content is provided “as-is” without any warranty of any kind express or implied, including without limitation any warranty as to the accuracy, quality, timeliness, or completeness of the Content, or fitness for a particular purpose; Toast assumes no liability for your use of, or reference to the Content. By accessing this site, you acknowledge and agree that: (a) there may be delays in updating, omissions, or inaccuracies in the Content, (b) the Content should not be relied upon or used as a substitute for consultation with professional legal advisors, (c) you should not perform any act or make any omission on the basis of any Content without first seeking appropriate legal or professional advice on the particular facts or circumstances at issue and (d) you are solely responsible for your compliance with all applicable laws. If you do not agree with these terms you may not access or use the site or Content.