Staffing a Restaurant: Hiring Restaurant Managers

By: Jessica Reimer

8 Minute Read

Jul 03, 2019

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If you’ve been following along with our ‘Staffing a Restaurant’ series, you’ll know we’ve already covered hiring front of house (FOH) staff and hiring back of house (BOH) staff. So who’s left? Your management team. 

No matter your restaurant size, type, or layout, who you choose to help you run your restaurant is a big deal (and a big decision). More on this in a minute.

In this restaurant manager staffing guide — the final installment of our three-part series — we’ll talk through must-have management skills, how to screen potential candidates, what kinds of interview questions to ask, and how to properly welcome a new recruit to your management team. 

We’ll kick things off with a run-through of the different management roles you might find in a restaurant. 

Restaurant Manager Jobs

It’s hard to distill a restaurant manager’s duties into a few short paragraphs. By its very nature, the role is ever-changing, multi-faceted, and not for the faint of heart. To borrow from an earlier post on restaurant management hiring tips, “the best managers are motivators, trainers, bussers, food runners, bartenders, servers, controllers, customer service representative, enforcers, and conflict mediators.” 

That’s a lot of hats. 

There are four key 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, as the title suggests, a management generalist. Depending on how involved or absent an owner you intend to be,  your GM is your connection to  goings on of the restaurant — they’re your eyes and ears. Although you’ll most often see them floating around the front of house, they’ve got their finger on the pulse of the back of house, too, to make sure everything is ticking along. Because they are so involved in your restaurant’s operations, previous restaurant experience — ideally in management — will support success in this challenging, fast-paced role. Typically, managers ascend the ranks within a restaurant, and get management experience that way, before entering a new management role. 

  • Reminder for restaurateurs: It’s up to you to establish a check-in cadence that works for you and your GM, whether that’s daily, weekly, monthly, or otherwise. Whatever that might look like for you, it’s crucial to find someone who not only demonstrates strong leadership skills but is also trustworthy. How can you measure trustworthiness? Some researchers point to guilt-proneness, an “anticipation of guilt over wrongdoing,” as the predictive trait of trustworthiness. 

Front of House Manager: Reporting to the GM, your front of house (or FOH) manager oversees all employees who work in — you guessed it — the front of 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. 

  • Reminder for restaurateurs: Hire humble. Running a restaurant smoothly requires teamwork; everyone, including management, must be prepared to roll up their sleeves and contribute.  Hiring someone who believes he or she is “above” a certain task can spell disaster for your workplace culture. It’s important that management understand there will be times when they’re required to do less-than-glamorous frontline work (like bussing tables when staff are slammed or someone unexpectedly calls in sick) to keep the boat afloat. 

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 stuff,” but should be ready to shake up a cocktail or replace a keg at a moment’s notice, too.  

  • Reminder for restaurateurs: If you’re hiring from outside and not promoting from within (something we’ll address in the next section), it’s important your bar manager be put through the paces of learning your restaurant’s drink lists, policies, and processes. A thorough understanding of the menu is critical, too, as they may need to take orders from patrons eating and drinking at the bar. 

Back of House Manager: Your FOH manager and your back of house (or BOH) manager are kind of like cousins in that they’re on the same family tree but grow up in two very different environments. BOH managers look after hiring, firing, scheduling, and mediating, but they also have a voice at the table when it comes to menu items, food presentation, and so on.

  • Reminder for restaurateurs: The kitchen is said to be the heart of the home. The same applies to a restaurant, only the stakes are higher. Hiring a master multi-tasker for the back of house will help keep every moving part within the restaurant operation running as it should. 

Interview Questions for Restaurant Managers

Once you’ve identified the kind of skills and experience you need for your restaurant management team, it’s time to put together what’s called 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 percent between 2016 and 2026; this means a larger pool of restaurants is 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, and fun, for example) front and centre. Candidates who share those values will be drawn to you, and more inclined to apply than if you published a stock-standard list of roles and responsibilities. 

But before you go out to the general public with your job ad, ask yourself: is there 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 labelled as a place for jobs, not careers. Part of your responsibility as 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. 

To best address the pile of resumes in your inbox, no matter where they come from, you’ll need a defined list of interview questions. 

Here’s a sample of interview questions for restaurant managers to get you started:

  1. Have you dined at our restaurant before? If yes, what was your experience like? 

  2. How would you describe your management style? How will that management style benefit this restaurant?

  3. Tell me about a time you managed a conflict between two or more people and what steps you took to resolve it.

  4. How would you manage an underperforming employee?

  5. How have or might you use restaurant technologies to help you in your role as manager? 

  6. What strategies have or will you use to maintain an empowered, engaged workforce?

  7. What strategies have or will you use to protect the restaurant’s bottom line?

  8. What do you feel is the most challenging part of being a restaurant manager, and how do you intend to overcome that challenge? 

Onboarding Restaurant Managers

By following these recommendations, the next time you place an employment contract in the hands of your future GM or BOH manager, you can feel confident you’ve made a smart, well-informed decision. 

But that’s only the beginning.

Now that you’ve secured a new team member, it’s time for onboarding. 

Chron’s Dana Severson identified five best practices in her article, “The Best Ways to Train a New Restaurant Manager.” These include training the trainer on employee programs and processes (a must, given management are expected to be able to move fluidly between managerial and frontline tasks as needed), on-the-job training (either by a superior or the outgoing manager), and informal discussions to cover less structured elements of the job such as maintenance or service issues. 

Another key component is familiarizing your new hire with your restaurant technology (things like your POS system and restaurant employee scheduling software). Even if you’re promoting from within — in which case, the incumbent will be familiar with your systems of choice — how management interacts with a scheduling tool vastly differs from a frontline worker. For example, because managers are often responsible for labor, food, and other costs, learning how to leverage these systems to offset risks of unnecessary overtime or excess inventory will help them flourish, while also freeing up time to focus on other duties.

And that’s it, folks! Thanks for reading. For more tips and tools to keep your restaurant recruitment engine running smoothly, check out Toast’s free Hiring the Modern Workforce course.

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