7 Expert Tips for Running a Restaurant [Podcast]

By: AJ Beltis

7 Minute Read

Jun 04, 2018

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running a restaurant

Anybody who's done it knows it – running a restaurant isn't an easy job.

When we sat down with Boston restaurateur Tom Schlesinger-Guidelli, who was the general manager of Island Creek Oyster Bar for more than five years and is currently opening his own restaurant, Alcove. He highlighted some of the myths, facts, and things to remember about running a restaurant that lifelong, new, and aspiring restaurateurs would be wise to remember.

Read on for seven expert tips on running a restaurant from Schlesinger-Guidelli, or listen to the podcast below.

1) Educate Your Staff

running a restaurant

With a restaurant turnover rate of 73%, the hospitality industry is facing many staffing hurdles.

Schlesinger-Guidelli stresses that one of the imperative parts of running a restaurant is not just the initial training of staff but rather the continuous training of staff.

"We didn’t just say ‘OK, these are the 10 things you need to learn to be a server.' We said, 'These are the first 10 things you need to learn,' and then we set out a path that had the next five things, and then the next five things."

Investing in your team builds morale and creates a more inspired, efficient work force, shaping bussers and servers into future managers and leaders.

"I think the solution is caring for your team as much as you care for your guests," Tom says. "We promoted from within, and we really developed talent."

2) Don't Forget That You Still Have People to Work For

A common misconception is that restaurant owners don't have to answer to anyone. See below for a one-word clarification on that.


"A lot of people think ‘Oh, I open up a restaurant and I don’t have to work for anybody ever again.' Actually, you’ve got a lot of people you’ve got to work for," says Tom.

"You’ve got to work for your investors, you’ve got to work for your staff, you’ve got to work for your purveyors, you’ve got to work for your guests."

3) Have Patience

A great restaurant is nothing without great staff, but restaurant owners need to be patient and recognize that human error occurs, and sometimes the learning curve is long.

“Managing a team…[is] about watching somebody develop and grow over a much longer term, which inherently needs patience," says Tom.

Investing time and money into developing a strong workforce is a massive undertaking, so make sure you're equipped with the proper resources:

  • Restaurant Hiring Kit Communicate expectations clearly with job posting templates, interview questionnaires, and offer letters that convey asks from the beginning.
  • Employee Retention Kit – Equip new hires with onboarding checklists and follow up with formal check-ins after 30 days.
  • Restaurant Staffing Guide – Learn the best way to engage, advance, and part ways with employees.

Resources like those featured above give your leadership team structure in the first few months of a new hire's tenure in your restaurant so employees can transform into restaurant rockstars.

4) Remember: Number Crunching is Part of the Job

Prime cost, labor cost, and cost of goods sold? All in the day of a restaurateur.

“Really learn the numbers," Tom instructs those aspiring to run a restaurant.

"I think oftentimes, we in the restaurant business shy away from talking about the financial models for a host of different reasons. But really learn the numbers, because when it's time to start paying for things, and to get investors, people want to know that you understand how to read a P & L, how to make something profitable when it’s not, and how to manage labor."

Numbers aren't everybody's strong suit, however. Below are some resources on how to calculate various restaurant costs and metrics:

5) Make Guest Satisfaction Should Your #1 Focus

With over one million restaurants in America, diners have plenty of locations to choose from.

“Our first focus is making sure that our guests are happy all the time," says Tom Schlesinger-Guidelli. "That’s the number one goal.”

It can be tough to tell what your guests really think of their experience unless they're filling out comment cards or leaving reviews online. Dissatisfied guests are twice as likely to tell someone about a negative experience than a positive one, so it's important to always focus on guest satisfaction.

Check out these free resources to learn about guest preferences in 2018:

“We are built on consistency,“ Tom says of his staff and prior teams.

“Your team is never stagnant, and if your team is stagnant, your restaurant’s probably stagnant," Tom explains, "and guests don’t want a stagnant experience most of the time. They want consistent experiences."

restaurant podcast

Let's break that down:

  • consistent (adj.) – acting or done in the same way over time, especially so as to be fair or accurate
  • stagnant (adj.) – showing no activity; dull and sluggish

Consistency implies room for growth and a special emphasis on accuracy. Stagnancy implies slow and dispassionate service. Don't let your restaurant be stagnant.

7) It Takes Longer Than You Think

When asked what surprised him most about starting his own restaurant, Tom said “I was surprised how long it took me...I thought that process was going to go much quicker.

'It’s not a cliché – it’s true. That's the thing that everybody says: 'It takes a lot longer than you think it’s going to take, and you’re not doing anything wrong.'"

His advice to people looking to start their own restaurant business? Start now. “It does take a lot longer than you think it going to take.”

Take these steps if you're serious about owning a restaurant.

About Our Guest

“I remember getting picked up from kindergarten with my uncle and chopping onions in the kitchen at the East Coast Grill.”

This episode of The Garnish features an interview with Tom Schlesinger-Guidelli, a prominent Boston restaurateur. Tom recounts his time growing up in a restaurant family, getting called back to the hospitality industry after studying political science and anthropology, working behind the bar, acting as general manager, serving as an opening consultant, and now prepping to open his first location.

Listen to our full interview with Tom Schlesinger-Guidelli here.

Tom Schlesinger-Guidelli

Tom Schlesinger-Guidelli is one of the most noted names in New England’s culinary scene. After an early start at his family’s East Coast Grill and working at The Back Eddy, he spent more than five years as general manager of Island Creek Oyster Bar, worked at Eastern Standard and Craigie on Main, and has since shifted into consulting on various Boston area restaurant openings, including The Automatic, Pagu, and the reimagined Cafe ArtScience.

Currently, he’s in the process of opening a new restaurant, the highly-anticipated Alcove. Tom Schlesinger-Guidelli has been featured in Eater, Boston Magazine, NECN, and The Boston Globe.

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