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Small Restaurant Management: Responsibilities and Essential Skills of a Great Small Restaurant Manager in 2023

Marcel DeerAuthor

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How to Manage a Restauarant

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Small restaurants have been called everything from bistros to cafés to holes in the wall. However, the truth is that most restaurants out there are pretty small. Over 90% of restaurants have fewer than 50 employees, but small restaurants may have less than ten. Small restaurants usually have between 1000-2000 square feet of actual floor plan, and yes, that includes both front- and back-of-house. 

Even though a restaurant may be small, the job of managing one usually isn’t. In comparison to larger establishments, a small restaurant manager often has to take on more diverse roles and responsibilities and requires more diverse skills to succeed. Let’s take a look at what these things are exactly, as well as some great tips to help small restaurants beat out their competition.

In this article, you’ll learn:

  • The roles and responsibilities of a small restaurant manager

  • The skills a manager needs for success

  • Great tips to help small restaurants win big

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How to Manage a Restauarant

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The Roles and Responsibilities of a Small Restaurant Manager

Small restaurant managers need big racks for all the different hats they need to wear. With smaller budgets, more responsibilities tend to fall to the managers than in larger restaurants and popular chains. These are the main tasks that most small restaurant managers need to take on.

Hiring and staff management

Small restaurants may operate with teams of ten employees or even fewer. On average, a restaurant needs one front-of-house and four to six back-of-house staff for every four tables they operate. With small teams, it’s essential that everyone is well-selected and pulls their weight, and it’s the manager’s job to make this happen. They normally have to recruit, hire, train, manage, and dismiss staff when necessary.

Supplier coordination and inventory management 

While managers may delegate inventory duties to kitchen staff, it’s ultimately their responsibility to ensure that this is being done correctly. All ingredients and supplies need to be in stock to ensure the restaurant runs smoothly and no revenue is lost. Small restaurant managers need to coordinate with suppliers and arrange deliveries. Because of their niche markets, this might include working with local growers and producers for the freshest quality ingredients.

Financial management 

A bakery manager must have a firm grasp of financial management. This includes budgeting, pricing, cost control, and accounting. An effective financial strategy can help your restaurant remain profitable, even in times of economic uncertainty.

Marketing 

Large restaurants and chains with dozens or even hundreds of locations can have dedicated sales and marketing teams to help get the word out. A small restaurant usually has no such luxury. They may outsource these duties to a marketing team or keep them in-house. Either way, it’s usually the small restaurant manager’s job to create and implement a marketing plan that can include deals, promotions, events, and advertising.

Customer service 

Customers often choose small restaurants for a more personal touch and for a unique dining experience. The manager has to ensure that the desired experience is being created by training their staff to provide excellent service and high food quality. The customer should always be at the forefront of all planning that the manager does. They should also assess how well this service is being provided and work to ensure that if any issues arise, the customer always goes away satisfied and with a positive experience.

Regulatory, safety, and legal compliance 

Even though a restaurant is small, it still has to comply with all local regulations for hygiene, safety, and accessibility. Permits and inspections can represent a larger percentage of the restaurant’s start-up costs than for larger restaurants, and that’s why compliance is essential. Once permits are acquired, they need to be held onto. The manager is responsible for ensuring this compliance. They also need to inspect cleanliness and hygiene themselves to be sure everything is up to their standards.

Essential skills of a small restaurant manager 

Now that we have the roles and responsibilities of a small restaurant manager out of the way, it’s time to talk about the skills and aptitudes that make a manager great. They need to have a wide range of skills in order to succeed at this challenging job, including the following:

Leadership 

Without strong leadership, a staff team can quickly lose direction and motivation. It’s up to the manager to make sure this doesn’t happen. Instead, they can provide great training and guidance to help keep everyone on point. They should also be motivated and demonstrate a high level of dedication to the job in order to inspire their teams

Communication 

Excellent communication skills are essential for success as a small restaurant manager. All rules and procedures should be clearly delivered and explained to the staff to help them perform correctly. The manager also has to build relationships with suppliers and other supporting businesses and keep in touch with them regularly. Clear and appropriate communication with customers is perhaps most important to help them get their needs met, express their concerns, and address their issues properly.

Organization 

In a small restaurant, the manager is usually the one arranging everything. There’s often no one else to help, so the manager needs to be highly organized to get the job done. This can include arranging opening and closing times, staff schedules and tasks, supply deliveries, and managing their own schedule. It also includes financial management as one of the big responsibilities of the manager. Without a good head for organization and the ability to institute efficient systems, a small restaurant manager has little chance of success in this tough business.

Problem-solving 

When problems come up – and they will – the manager is the one people look to for solutions. That’s why a great small restaurant manager should have excellent problem-solving skills. The ability to think on their feet, come up with creative solutions, and confidently institute them is invaluable. Of course, all problems that involve customers must be handled appropriately and to their satisfaction, and this is the manager’s responsibility when the staff aren’t able to solve things themselves.

Understanding of the industry

While there are usually countless options for diners to choose from, why do many choose to eat at small restaurants? Perhaps the old Jewish proverb, “In a restaurant, choose a table near a waiter,” has something to do with it.

Customers go small when they’re looking for great service, unique experiences, and food they can’t find elsewhere. A successful manager of a small restaurant will know about what attracts and keeps customers. Ideally, they’ll have years of experience under their belts so they know how their industry works and be able to apply that understanding to make their restaurant competitive.

Tricks to being a successful small restaurant manager 

Build an outstanding company culture

Each small restaurant out there has the opportunity to do things in a unique way. That can include building up a positive and inclusive company culture that makes staff feel like they are valued and have input into how things operate. This can keep motivation high and staff turnover low – both are great bonuses for a small restaurant.

Create a great guest experience

As the manager of a small restaurant, find out what customers want. Why would they come to you and not go elsewhere? What are the unique sales points that your restaurant provides? Once these are isolated, it’s important that every feature of your establishment, from food to atmosphere to service, falls in line with the guest experience you intend to provide.

Stay up to date with staff training and cross-training

Managers have to train staff when they’re hired, but training should stop there. Changes to equipment, procedures and policies will require you to re-train staff periodically. Cross-training staff – teaching them to do each other’s jobs – can help to build team cohesion and improve efficiency. Your staff learn to appreciate each other’s contributions and can also take shifts in different roles if suddenly needed.

Never stop learning 

The perfect small restaurant manager doesn’t exist, but the best know that they need to continue to improve their skills and never stop learning. There are courses, workshops, conferences, and innumerable online resources available to managers who want to keep enhancing their skills and knowledge.

Great Small Restaurant Managers

The best managers have a broad array of aptitudes and skills they can apply to the different responsibilities needed for running small restaurants. With extensive experience, motivation, and knowledge, they’ll be able to shine in this competitive industry and bring their restaurants success.

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