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According to the National Restaurant Association, 9 out of 10 newly hired restaurant managers start out at entry level. In other words, only 10% of new restaurant managers have an ounce of restaurant management experience when they start the job.
So even if you're promoting a rockstar server or chef, that doesn't mean they'll be a great restaurant manager right out of the gate, especially without the right training.
According to Toast research, even for profitable restaurants, hiring, training, and retaining staff is the biggest collective challenge for the industry right now. In fact, profitable restaurants are placing more emphasis on training their staff than not-so-profitable restaurants are. This tells us good staff training will lead to more cash in your drawers.
Training is even more important for restaurant managers, because they typically have the largest impact on your restaurant’s operations, team, and guest experience. Some restaurants — especially the larger ones — invest a ton in making sure their new managers are successful. Take Olive Garden, for example.
Olive Garden’s Manager-in-Training (MIT) Program
As a Manager-in-Training, you’ll participate in an extensive, 12-week training program. During the first phase of the program you’ll receive an 8-week concentrated overview of each employee and manager position. In the second phase you will travel to the Darden Restaurant Support Center in Orlando, Florida for four days of additional specialized training. When you return from Orlando, you will begin the final phase of focused training as a Culinary, Staffing & Training or Service Manager. You will be assigned a coaching manager that will act as a mentor for the remaining three weeks of your training. During this period you will experience, hands-on, day-to-day operations in managing the department that you will be responsible for leading upon graduating from the MIT program.
Most restaurants can’t dedicate this much time and money to staff training, but once you’ve hired the perfect restaurant manager, you need to take advantage of every opportunity to get them on board and up to task if you want to set them up for success.
In this guide, we’ll outline how to train your restaurant managers in-house and point you to restaurant management courses and resources to help you train managers effectively.
Want to create a restaurant manager training manual as you go? Oh, cool — we already made one for you. Use this training manual template to create your own manager training guide.
1. Teach Managers Your Business’s Values
When you sit down with your new manager on day one to go through your restaurant’s employee handbook, discuss your restaurant's core values, how you and your staff enact them, and why you're passionate about the work you do.
Why? Today’s restaurant workers have strong values. They’re more concerned about the impact of their choices on larger world issues, and this is a big motivator. Nearly 9 out of 10 millennials (those between the ages of 22 and 37) would consider taking a pay cut to work at a company whose mission and values align with their own, according to LinkedIn’s Workplace Culture report.
Taking the time to sit with a new employee to kick off their training will instantly set you apart from the competition. Showing staff how they impact the larger success of your restaurant will motivate them to show guests why it’s such an awesome place. This small gesture early on can help a person feel greater pride in their workplace, which is key for employee retention. Happy employees stick around longer, become brand ambassadors, and are more inclined to provide outstanding customer service.
2. Clearly Define Objectives and Goals
Before you provide managers with the resources they need to do the job, clearly lay out what you expect from them.
People with written goals are 20% more likely to achieve them than people without written goals, according to a Dominican University study. For the first month, quarter, or year of their time with you, encourage your restaurant manager to write down their goals for being on staff and keep each other posted on results.
Goals and objectives can take many forms. Here are some examples:
- Cultivate a better guest experience. Your restaurant’s reviews on Yelp, Google, Facebook, and TripAdvisor are an easy way to track this metric.
- Improve restaurant staff morale. Conduct a quarterly employee NPS score to get a pulse check on how happy your employees are. Sort them into promoters (they love the culture), passives (they're unsure how they feel), and detractors (they wouldn’t recommend your workplace to friends or family). Then, act on their recommended changes and repeat.
- Increase profit by X%. This goal is the most clear for restaurant managers: make data-driven decisions on inventory, menu prices, and more to increase restaurant profits and decrease spending.
3. Help Managers Get to Know Your Customers
A good restaurant manager knows their customers. A great restaurant manager uses customer feedback to improve the restaurant experience.
Have your managers keep track of guest feedback and make a list of the common complaints guests have in your restaurant.
More often than not, customers asking to see the manager aren’t in a great mood, so it’s valuable to prepare managers with potential solutions to an array of problems. If you’re still waiting on a replacement for that faulty ketchup dispenser that diners have been complaining about for a week, your manager should know when that new dispenser is coming in.
Teach your restaurant manager how to listen to complaints but also how to give customers an action plan and follow through on them. Here are a few examples of responding to common feedback.
- Bad service. If a guest is particularly disappointed by a server, they might call over the manager. Listen to their qualms and explain politely that you’re sorry to hear that and you’ll try to resolve the issue. Offer them something complimentary, if it helps.
- Bad food. Sometimes guests won’t be pleased with the quality of your food. “I asked for medium rare, and this is medium.” The easiest way to combat this problem is to take back the food and make it to their specifications while informing the guest they will chat with the chef to see what happened.
- Long wait time. For the first 10 minutes waiting for a table, guests might tap their feet. For the next 10 minutes, they'll roll their eyes. Any longer and they'll probably ask for a manager. Calmly explain that their party will be seated at the first table available and that the fantastic guest experience will make up for the wait.
Managers should be made aware of common day-to-day complaints, but it’s also important to keep them in the loop on ownership decisions, like price increases, planned promotions, and reservation system updates. When they’re in the know and have clear instructions on how to answer customer questions about these decisions, they’re better prepared to respond to and resolve any resulting complaints.
4. Help Managers Get to Know Your Space
From an unbalanced table in the dining room to an oven that’s just a little hotter than the others, every restaurant has its quirks. Your new manager should be made aware of all of them so they won’t be blindsided.
Even more importantly, restaurant managers should know all your restaurant’s equipment and who to call in the event that something breaks. You need to leave a list (or in many cases, a binder) of all the restaurant equipment in your kitchen, bar, and front of house, as well as the contact information for the mechanics or technicians who work with this equipment.
Without this information, your restaurant manager will be stranded when something goes wrong. And that is a when, not an if. What happens when the fridge breaks and you're not there? You know the deal.
5. Teach Managers Your Restaurant’s Tech, Tools, and Reporting
Every restaurant manager needs to be well-versed in the restaurant POS system and any restaurant reporting integrations your restaurant business uses. Some systems have POS training programs that walk you through how to use the system as a server, manager, and owner. If that’s the case, make sure your manager takes that training.
However, your new restaurant manager must also know the basics of inventory tracking, front- and back-of-house reporting, profit and loss reporting, menu pricing, invoicing, liquor control — the list goes on and on and is unique to every restaurant. Here are a few resources to help you identify what your restaurant manager needs to know, and help them get a technical restaurant education:
6. Teach Managers How You’d Like Staff to Be Trained
A big part of a restaurant manager's job is working with employees to make sure they're happy and doing their jobs well. Restaurant managers must be comfortable interacting with staff both as a friend and as a boss.
Restaurant managers need to know the restaurant policies, the restaurant culture, and the necessary human resources procedures, such as hiring and firing. If possible, you might also want to ask the new manager to attend a leadership seminar or course.
Here are some restaurant staff training resources to give your manager:
7. Invest In Restaurant Management Courses and Certifications
Your restaurant and its operations are unique, but a comprehensive grasp on how the industry works is important to a manager’s success.
Restaurant managers are staples in both the front-of-house and back-of-house, and it’s vital that they’re well-versed in food safety, food waste solutions, inventory management, sourcing, accounting, human resources, and more general restaurant management skills. Your kitchen isn’t exempt from the health code, after all.
You might not need to send your new managers to an ultra-intensive, off-site training program, but it’s valuable to give them access to restaurant management courses and certifications to help them improve their skills and become more effective managers. Especially as the industry evolves and changes.
Here are a few options available at hospitality schools or online:
8. Keep Managers Up-to-Date on Restaurant Trends
The restaurant industry is constantly innovating and adapting, so your restaurant managers should, too. Provide your new restaurant manager with a list of publications to read and encourage them to subscribe to certain sites, online magazines, or forums.
These publications should inform them on their industry, the competition, and keep them up to date with what’s trending in the restaurant business. That’ll keep them creative and encourage them to try new ideas. Here are a few examples to start:
Getting Great Restaurant Managers to Stick Around
Remember that stat from the beginning of this guide from the National Restaurant Association? They found that 9 in 10 restaurant managers start in the job without restaurant experience. But they also found that the median tenure of restaurant managers is 20 years. And 7 out of 10 restaurant managers plan to stay in the industry until they retire.
When you find great restaurant managers and invest a little time into training them properly, you’ve got a fair shot of keeping them for life. When they’re onboarded and trained effectively, managers benefit from the most important aspect of restaurant management training: on-the-job experience.
Restaurant management is a job that requires true passion and grit, and after a few weeks running around the kitchen, diving into the data, and working with staff, it can become a job that keeps you going. Restaurant management courses, resources, and face-to-face training on your restaurant’s operations are great ways to set your managers up to discover that passion on their own.