For those of us looking for the opportunity to join the leadership team in our companies, the first promotion into a management role is a really exciting accomplishment. In the perfect environment, we have the opportunity to train, learn and grow into our new position with ease. This isn’t always the case in a fast-paced, high-demand environment, and we are often thrown into managing a team and business that is brand new to us! When you want to do a great job, but aren’t sure how much control you actually have, focus on the small things you deal with on a daily basis. Complete each of your tasks well and experiment with ways to improve efficiency. This is how we totally believe that you can “watch the pennies, and the dollars will take care of themselves.” If you follow these simple suggestions, it will result in making you a financial asset to the business and literally turn the spotlight your way! Good luck and congrats on your promotion!
Are you placing orders?
New vendors often go out of their way to give you the best price, but what about vendors that your restaurant has worked with for a while? A new manager who has taken over ordering for the first time might not know that there is sometimes room for negotiation. Do you sell a certain coffee brand exclusively? Let your sales rep know. What does your business gain from your vendor by doing so? Keep them updated with your sales and the success of their product. They are often happy to come in and do demonstrations and staff education, which increases sales. Opening a 2nd or 3rd location? Let your vendor know about it first, and there may be room for more purchasing options if you have more than one location featuring a brand. Receiving substandard service or follow up from a vendor? Change suppliers. If you can build a relationship with your vendors, communicate often with them, and do the leg work of finding the best price for the products you need, you can help your business to cut costs and show your supervisor that you care about the company. As a new manager, it is also easy to assume that you are selling a certain product for a special reason. Sometimes this isn’t the case, and you can shop for some alternatives. Ask your direct supervisor about the original thought behind selling or using any given product and if there is room for change, volunteer to be the contact. Do the research, find a better price, and make your move!
Are you a scheduling manager?
Scheduling can affect one of the highest costs in a restaurant; LABOR! In today’s world, labor is one of the most challenging costs to manage. Here’s something crazy: the person(s) writing the schedule aren’t always trained on how to maximize hours worked and minimize dollars spent. Labor is dependent on so many things, and not a fixed cost like rent. Instead, it is a variable cost because it changes from week-to-week, month-to-month, and so on. Depending on what your staffing looks like, you may be facing challenges with overtime, training hours, and simply not having enough employees to schedule. Writing a schedule can be frustrating, but it’s not impossible. Do you use scheduling software? Use all the tools it has to offer. Many scheduling programs show total cost, PTO and OT. Working on Excel? Create a simple template that includes hours scheduled, rates per hour, and total costs based on the schedule. This will help you know what you are spending even if you don’t have a budget or labor cost percentage goal. In the slower months or days of the year, you can push start times or cut employees early. Over time, you can also predict trends based on the previous year’s or month’s needs. You will save a tremendous amount of time by being thoughtful about these details that seem small in the moment but will have a big impact long term!
Are you training staff to present menus?
Menus are created by the chef and senior management, but you can still help to increase sales just by how you present the menu! Focus on training your servers to highlight their favorite dishes when they approach a table. This creates an organic presentation of something your employees have tried and loved. If you need time to prepare a table, offer menus to the guests waiting. This will help them familiarize themselves while they wait. We don’t know about you, but we often see guests looking at the food arriving at tables while they wait, and their curiosity, especially if they are hungry, follows them to their table. Have a separate dessert menu? Don’t forget to drop it just as you clear dinner plates. We encourage servers to remember that many people have a “separate stomach” just for their sweet cravings. At some restaurants, there is even a great suggestion to take dessert home. The thought of enjoying a piece of chocolate cake in front of the TV in your PJs sure sounds great some nights. However you choose to highlight the menu, we remind you that it is a tool to increase sales and offer everything you love to your guests.
Are you using wait times to your advantage?
Sometimes we run behind on turning tables and it can be super stressful. With practice, you can use different areas of the restaurant to help you stay on time. If a table has finished, paid, and is still enjoying their time in the restaurant, invite them to have a cocktail or dessert at the bar. You can buy the first round or they can start a new tab. Often, guests will take you up on the offer and stay a bit longer while you prepare the table for new guests. Upon arrival, sometimes we have to ask guests to wait for their table to be ready. When this happens, you can do the same by offering a spot at the bar or a waiting area while you get them started with some bubbly, a small snack, or aperitif. Guests really feel seen and taken care of when we acknowledge that we are running behind and offer something while they are waiting. This gesture that is small for us goes a long way for your guests’ experience.
Are you reminding your team that smiles create return business?
We underestimate the power of a genuine smile. When greeting guests, meeting them for the first time, or welcoming regulars, convey a genuine excitement to see them. As guests, we all want to go somewhere that we are recognized and taken care of. Laughter, smiles, and a genuine welcome are contagious! Over time, not only will your guests come to expect your consistent smile, but they will support your business financially by coming back again and again.
Are you staying organized?
Even if it doesn’t come naturally to you, this is so important. Keep your workspace clean and organized. Proofread emails before sending them, and put some thought into the tools you need for your team and yourself. Are your pens kept in one place and always replenished? Such a simple but impactful detail will help you and your team to feel prepared.
Experienced restaurant professionals apply many of these methods everyday; the funny thing is that we have collected these details over time, and sometimes by accident! Senior leaders sometimes take for granted that you already know more than you actually do. As a new manager, it is important to
ask as many questions as possible as you take on a new position. We operate quickly in an ever changing environment, and while there won’t always be a lengthy training period, we can learn everyday from our leadership team and our guests. Be a sponge and absorb ways to contribute to your business financially. There will be ideas that you may have to abandon, but don’t be afraid to keep trying. Your team, guests and restaurant will thank you!