How to Hire a Great Restaurant Manager

Your best manager just gave their two weeks’ notice. Here’s how to hire a restaurant manager to replace them — and fast.

We were at the National Restaurant Show in Chicago this year when Sara Anderson, director of workforce development at the National Restaurant Association, said something pretty shocking. “It costs roughly $2,000 to recruit and train a new hire into the restaurant business." And for managers, she says, "It’s about $15,000.”

We knew it was bad, but holy cow.

Every time a restaurant manager leaves, it’s a blow to your team but also your bank account. But hey, let’s assume this has happened: Your best manager just gave their two weeks’ notice. It’s all good. Let’s focus on finding an awesome manager to replace them — and fast.

Restaurant management is not a job for the faint of heart. It requires hard-earned experience, strong people skills, and a love of the work. The best managers are motivators, trainers, bussers, accountants, food runners, bartenders, servers, controllers, customer service representatives, enforcers, and conflict mediators.


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Know Who to Hire

There are four main restaurant management groups: general, front of house, bar, and back of house. Depending on the size of your restaurant, you might also have a fleet of assistant managers who support upper management by relieving some of their duties and creating a more manageable workload.

General Manager:

Your general manager (or GM) is the eyes and ears of your restaurant. You can usually find a GM floating around the front of the house, taking the pulse of the back of the house, or asking the staff if they need help covering the lunch rush. Honestly, it’s amazing how much this person knows about the business and its daily goings-on. It’s like they eat, sleep, and breathe your restaurant. Because they’re so involved in operations, previous restaurant experience — ideally in management — will support their success in this fast-paced role. Typically, managers ascend the ranks within a restaurant and get experience that way before entering a new management role.

Front-of-House Manager:

A front-of-house manager reports to the GM and oversees all employees who work in — drumroll, please — the front of the house. A FOH manager’s goal is to set and protect a high standard of service. From an administrative point of view, responsibilities including hiring, scheduling, and relaying information to the team. Operationally, they look after the financials, manage customer complaints, and help close down the restaurant at the end of a shift.

Bar Manager:

Depending on your restaurant concept, you might have enough bar staff to warrant bringing on a bar manager. Similar in scope to a FOH manager, your bar manager will oversee all the people management stuff but should be ready to shake up a cocktail or replace a keg at a moment’s notice, too.

Back-of-House Manager:

Your FOH manager and your BOH manager are like twins with separate lives. They have expertise in completely different environments but can mirror the needs of both groups to keep things running smoothly. BOH managers look after hiring, training, scheduling, and mediating, but they also have a voice at the table when it comes to menu items, food presentation, and so on. If the kitchen is the heart of the home, the stakes only get higher in a restaurant. Your BOH manager should be a master multi-tasker with excellent communication skills.


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Write the Restaurant Manager Job Description

Once you’ve identified the role, skills, and experience you need for your restaurant management team, write a value-driven restaurant job description. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment opportunities for food service managers are set to grow by 9% between 2016 and 2026. This means a larger pool of restaurants are vying for management-ready talent.

With a value-driven job description, you’ll set yourself apart from the competition by putting your company’s culture and values (honesty, respect for others, all that good stuff) front and center. Candidates who share those values will be more inclined to apply than if you published a stock-standard list of roles and responsibilities.

Here’s an example of a value-driven job description for a FOH manager

“Our service managers are committed to legendary food and legendary service. Your role managing the front-of-house staff is an important one. You’ll be leading a team of ‘Roadies’ through a shift and ensuring customers are receiving quality food and hospitality in a fun environment. Although no day at the Roadhouse is quite the same, a day may look like...

  • Hearing that Sarah, a mom of 3, has a complaint, then remedying the concern with the appropriate solution, ranging from free desserts to comping the whole check.
  • Supporting a new staff member who’s struggling with a challenge.
  • Sharing positive feedback with a server who’s doing a great job.
  • Spotting a bucket of peanuts that’s upside down on the floor and delegating staff to clean-up (or even doing it yourself).
  • Remaining calm and knowing what to do, even when Jim, the line cook, cuts himself with the chef’s knife.
  • Staying organized with important tasks like schedule management and interviewing potential new employees.”

Can you hire from within?

Before you go to the general public with your job description, ask yourself if there’s someone already on your team — an ultra-organized line cook, an eager and dedicated server — who might be ready, willing, and able to take on a new challenge. Too often the restaurant industry is incorrectly labeled as a place for jobs, not careers. Part of your responsibility as a restaurateur is to flip the script on this narrative by showing staff the lucrative and flexible opportunities that come from a career in food service.

Open mind, open heart.

Experience comes in many forms. Yes, it would be awesome if your new manager had 7+ years of experience. But extenuating circumstances may have stopped them from pursuing that experience in the first place. Eliminating years of experience required and degree requirements from your job descriptions will diversify your applicant pool. It’s often more important to hire for behavioral qualities and personal values than it is for experience. Candidates who are passionate about being in this industry, even if they come from different backgrounds, cultures, or experience, will stick around for the long-term. By removing certain requirements from the list, you’ll attract a larger pool of candidates.

Another way to encourage a more diverse pool of applicants is to take a close look at the language you’re using in the job description. According to ZipRecruiter, eliminating gendered terms from your description can get you more applicants.

Don’t use these phrases.

  • We’re looking for strong…
  • Who thrive in a competitive atmosphere…
  • Candidates who are assertive....
  • We are a community of concerned…
  • Have a polite and pleasant style…
  • Nurture and connect with customers…

Use these instead.

  • We’re looking for exceptional…
  • Who are motivated by high goals…
  • Candidates who are go-getters…
  • We’re a team focused on…
  • Are professional and courteous…
  • Provide great customer service...
Job Description Template
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Job Description Template

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What to Look for On a Restaurant Manager Resume

Now that you have a diverse pool of applicants who’ve heard about your culture and values, it’s time to take a look at those resumes. Before you dive in, though, consider how bias can impact hiring decisions. To give each resume a fair shot, try going through them blindly. This means removing the names, ages, and other potentially identifying information from the resumes before reading through them.

When looking at resumes, it’s important to identify the skills that every good manager needs. These skills include customer service, communication, problem-solving, teamwork, organization, and a hell of a lot more.

Take a look at previous job descriptions and identify the projects that involve these skills. It’s fine if the descriptions don’t mention those keywords outright. Something like: “Identified the need for an updated inventory system and developed one with managers” shows communication, problem-solving, organizational, and teamwork skills.

Manager Resume Template
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Manager Resume Template

Get hired for that dream manager job with the restaurant manager resume template, a customizable Word doc that outlines skills, education, and more.

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Assemble Your Hiring Team

Bring together the group of people who will be interviewing candidates. A killer hiring team is made up of team members with unique strengths and diverse perspectives from across the business. Bring in your HR manager and operations manager, if you have them. Bring your chef and another senior-level manager, and someone who would be this person’s peer.

Prepare the hiring team with the info they need to do a good job. Each person should focus on a different set of questions, whether cultural, behavioral, skills-based, or a blend of all three. Make sure the hiring team understands the priority skills and qualities needed for the role. And give them access to the job description and resumes well beforehand. It’s usually helpful to run a kick-off meeting with the hiring team before you start interviewing to make sure everyone’s on the same page.

Ask the Right Questions

Now it’s time to ask your candidates to come in for an interview. It’s important to standardize this process so you’re giving each candidate the opportunity they deserve to showcase their skills.

Defining a set of interview questions can also streamline the process. Hiring a restaurant manager is only one part of your typically-insane day, so an interview shouldn’t take hours and definitely shouldn’t be filled with small talk.

Because you started your job description with a look into your restaurant’s culture, incorporate that into your interview questions as well. Culture questions can kick off the conversation in a more friendly way, helping your candidates feel relaxed and comfortable with their interviewer. This is a high-stakes process, but your candidates should never feel like they’re being interrogated.

Unlike process questions, culture questions should prompt a story rather than a “correct” answer. Listen to the way someone verbalizes their thoughts and shows their interest through nonverbal cues, and think about how their personality would add to your team instead of seeking the “right” answer.

Culture-based interview questions.

  • Tell me about your most memorable hospitality experience.
  • Tell me about your first job in the restaurant industry and how you ended up there.
  • Tell me about a time you had to disappoint a guest and what you learned from it.
  • What kind of role do you like to play on a team?
  • What’s a personal value of yours?

Now you can get into the nitty-gritty details.

At the end of the day, a candidate’s ability to do the job is critical if you’re going to invest the resources into hiring and training them. These questions should be specific to the management role and your expectations.

Skills-based interview questions should involve:

  • Details about their management experience. How many people did they manage and in what kind of environment? How many seats and what types of hours? How would they manage an underperforming employee? How would they maintain an empowered, engaged team?
  • Their areas of improvement: What part of the management role do they find most difficult?
  • Which tools technology have they used in the past to get the job done?
  • Their kitchen management knowledge. Ask a kitchen manager to describe how they handle a Friday night in the back of the house and what kind of capacity they’re used to handling.
  • Their business management knowledge. What strategies have or would they you use to protect the restaurant’s bottom line?

After the Interview

Immediately after the interview, give your contact information to the candidate so they can contact you with any questions. Doesn’t matter how the interview went — you should always follow up with the candidate’s references. Maybe someone had an off day or put on a face during an interview. Ask the reference whether or not they would rehire the employee given the chance and strongly consider that answer and its rationale in your hiring decision.

Making the Offer

This is the part of the process where you begin to hear the music.

When you officially decide on who to hire, follow up with that candidate with a phone call. If they aren’t available when you first call, either email or leave a voice message asking them to call back at their earliest convenience for an update on their job application.

When you connect over the phone, congratulate them and formally offer them the position. In the initial phone call, cover the pay, any employee benefits, their level of interest, any questions they still have, and how you want to move forward.

Hopefully they’re just as pumped as you are and this is a match. But there’s always the possibility that they’ve accepted another offer or decided to go in a different direction. If this is the case, don’t fall into despair. Go back to the other candidates you interviewed and reassess what made you put them in the “no” pile.

If everything checks out on the phone call, deliver the offer letter either in person or by email. The most important parts of the offer letter include the details you covered on the phone call:

  • Pay
  • Benefits
  • Expected hours
  • Employment and termination terms
  • The date they need to accept by
  • Start date
  • Next steps
  • A welcome note to get them excited about the team they’re joining

Need a restaurant job offer letter template that’s already got this stuff? We’ve got one for you.

That’s how it’s done, friends.

Find yourself a restaurant manager who can lead from the front and make your team feel valued. This is a demanding industry. Staff like to see their fearless leader come in before them, leave after them, and always work at least as hard or harder than them. They want their manager to be capable of doing anything they’re able to do. They want a boss who’s loyal, who takes an interest in their lives, who will protect them. When you hire a restaurant manager who can pull that off, that’s when you find the camaraderie.

For more education on hiring restaurant staff more check out the Hiring the Modern Restaurant Workforce Course.

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