Tips for hiring restaurant managers

  • Posted on July 30, 2021 by John Jones

It is always essential to retain your best staff, but sometimes the unforeseen happens and we have to re-recruit. Or maybe you are starting a cafe bar, pub or restaurant and hiring for the very first time.

Finding the right restaurant manager for your business can be difficult and time consuming, even before the interview stage. The trick is to decide beforehand which key traits you will seek.

Get it right and you will employee a trusted deputy who will act as your right hand, pushing the business forward while maintaining fantastic day to day standards of operation. Get it wrong, and you could be stuck with them for some time.

Here are our tips for hiring a new restaurant manager.

Approachability and professionalism

We all want our new hires to walk the walk and talk the talk, but it is essential that the restaurant manager is approachable. You've probably come across the dapper, slick professional who looks the part, sounds very credible yet below the surface has a habit of upsetting staff and not being particularly effective. For all the swagger, they're actually a liability.

This individual will be the first point of contact for your customers and team, so they have to be the right balance of professional and – frankly – helpful. A bit of humility will also go a very long way.

Technology savvy

Restaurants have come a long way since the days of bookings being locked up in the owner's memory or at best scribbled on the back of an order pad.

Successive generations have adapted to new technology such that, as customers, they expect their favourite restaurants to use at least a degree of technology. The same goes for staff – not only do they expect their employer to use an online booking system, but their lives are made much easier and more productive when they have access to ordering apps, epos and payment systems plus a host of other innovations.

We're not suggesting you have to hire a technical wizard, but recruiting someone who uses web-based technology in their day to day lives will cut down their learning curve and therefore the time you need to train them. The best restaurant technology is easy to learn and use, so an applicant who can demonstrate even a modicum of knowledge of using apps and web-based programs will be a valuable asset to the business.  Likewise, they will become your go-to technology expert responsible for ensuring systems run effectively, are fit for purpose and training staff.

If, for example, they use Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn or similar, or perhaps do the accounts for their local skittles team using something like Quickbooks, they will probably adapt quickly to your tech stack. Needless to say, someone who can't distinguish Word from Exel, doesn't own a smartphone app or thinks Google is a type of ice cream might not be the right fit for such an important role.

Team Player

Your restaurant manager needs to take responsibility for getting the best out of their team, acting as the conductor of each department to the tune of the bigger picture. They must understand the dynamics of the individual teams and people; what motivates them and what doesn't.

Their management style has to be fair and relatively predictable, so that staff understand what is required of them within a framework of clear objectives, timelines, sanctions and rewards. The ideal manager will not just be adept at telling, but showing. Plus they have to garner a reputation for rolling up their sleeves and getting stuck in to any task, at any level, in order for the whole team to succeed. 

What we don't want is a manager who thinks “managing” is all about strutting around, barking orders then retreating to the office to shout at suppliers or read the latest weighty business improvement book. On the contrary, the ideal restaurant manager should be inspiring, motivating, and lead by example.

Detail & administration

Clearly potential restaurant managers come in all shapes and sizes, and are expected to be fantastic at a huge range of tasks. Effective administration is the backbone of any business, for without effective record keeping things can soon start to descend into chaos.

The key here is in efficient record keeping, because if the accounts, orders, staff rotas and other critical areas are liberally distributed among in-trays, filing cabinets, coat pockets and the occasional trash can, the business is never going to run to its optimum. 

The fact is, however, that some very dynamic managers of people, for example, may not be the best at administration. Rather, they are do-ers, creators, ideas-oriented and great at new initiatives. It isn't always possible to find people who are brilliant at everything, but we can give those with a slightly iffy approach to critical administration the right tools to keep them on track, along with very clear instructions of what the owner expects.

It really comes down to what your business needs from the new restaurant manager. If it is dynamism, sales, customer-retention, marketing and team cohesion from day one, then don't overlook someone with these attributes just because their admin isn't quite up to scratch. A candidate capable of having a big business impact can be compensated for if their admin skills are lower, by using other available resources in the business. What we;re saying is, don't throw the baby out with the bath water here.

We should also mention that the opposite can be equally important, because candidates showing an unhealthy obsession for creating new but potentially low priority admin processes (heaps of new spreadsheets, tick boxes and home-made forms for even the most mundane procedures) may not be so good at handling dynamic situations or growing the business.

It's a balance, isn't it?

A love of hospitality

This may sound obvious, but it really helps if your potential restaurant manager is absolutely in love with hospitality. The best managers consistently show a passion for ensuring the absolute satisfaction of diners and guests, by delivering superb service, food and drink. They thrive on being part of a harmonious, hospitable environment above all else and judging a great day's work by the customer delight factor.

We mention this because it isn't unusual for customers to experience an indifferent, lacklustre performance from restaurant managers who appear to want to be anywhere else, doing anything other than being hospitable. Normally we would suggest various interview or competence checks when evaluating interview candidates, but this is one area where the test is less tangible.  

If the individual lights up the room with anecdotes of how they have helped make customers happy, you have probably found the right hire. Follow your instinct: are they convincingly in love with hospitality, really?

Non-disruptor

There are so many traits to look for in a restaurant manager, and in truth you will be lucky to find someone who possesses all of them. Embedding the right staff is about balance, compromise and priorities. 

One thing you don't want under any circumstances, however, is a disruptor. This is one area which absolutely trumps all others, bar none. It doesn't matter if the candidate ticks 99% of your boxes – if they are likely to disrupt your business, steer well clear. 

What do we mean by disruptor? We've all experienced them in our workplaces. They are the staff members with agendas; they have no loyalties and are duplicitous. On the surface they may seem a paragon of virtue, but underneath they thrive on creating disharmony and relish in its negative effects on the business. 

Disruptors are particularly keen to undermine managers and owners by constantly sowing seeds of doubt among their peers, criticizing your business models and decisions. They always know better; their previous employer was always the gold standard; your business is failing but in their opinion how you don't listen to their opinion; they are leaving as soon as a better offer comes along. They will never say this to your face, however.

You have worked hard to establish and maintain your business and nobody has the right to disrupt it. The effects of these people's behaviour is toxic and will ripple, then cascade through your teams and entire organisation. Don't hire a disruptor (take references by phone and check out the candidates' social media profiles). As an aside, if you already have a disruptor among your staff, get rid.

Remember, this is your business and nobody has the right to disrupt your vision, team, customers or plans. You can train-in skills, but you will never fix a toxic attitude.

Your biggest supporter

It is crucially important that your restaurant manager is completely aligned with your business goals. Naturally you will want to outline to the candidate where you want to be and what your brand stands for in the job description, person specification and at interview, but this line of conversation needs to be two way.

The candidates should be truly excited about your restaurant's potential under your leadership, having dome their research and understood your vision. They will be bursting with complementary ideas and impatient to start contributing. Once in place, they'll naturally embrace your values and propagate them through the team as if they were their own.

That's true support.

Communicator

This is an easy one. If a manager cannot communicate clearly, they will find the job of running your restaurant difficult. Staff operating in a fast-paced and demanding environment need unambiguous instructions, while customers want their messages – verbal or otherwise – received on time and in an appropriate form. 

The manager must be able to switch their style of communication to suit the circumstances, be it to firmly but fairly deal with a customer complaint or to praise a member of the team. There's no one-size-fits-all when it comes to communication; adaptability and clarity are absolutely key.

Experience

Ideally you will need someone with experience, having already written your list of what's required. Certainly there will be elements on your list which are non-negotiable, but it is important not to rule out candidates just because they lack in one specific area (unless that area is an absolute deal breaker). 

Transferable skills are well worth considering, particularly if the individual has worked in a comparable environment such as a club, hotel or spa. Similarly, great people-management and IT skills are very transferable, if you are willing to spend a little time training in other areas. 

What's your aim here – to get a great manager, or someone who can immediately do everything your staff can do? If you can find someone who ticks both boxes, brilliant. If not, the broader your thinking, the more chances there are to meet some great candidates.

Wrapping up

There are of course a plethora of traits you might look for in a new restaurant manager. Their role is to be multi-faceted, from hands-on tasks to high-end strategy. It is essential to decide what is important to you; what can be trained-in and the deal-breakers. Create a mechanism for uncovering the truths about these areas rather than falling for the candidates' well rehearsed interview patter.

One final thought: attitude is everything.


favouritetable is the leading provider of easy to install, easy to use restaurant management software. For over a decade, favouritetable has provided world-class and commission-free systems to enable restaurants, pubs, bars and other businesses to maximise their revenue and create seamless workflows which make owners, staff and customers happy.

For a demonstration, call us today on 033 0124 4785 or email us at info@favouritetable.com and see why favouritetable is the best value full-feature restaurant management system on the market.

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