You can have the most delectable food imaginable and be located in the heart of your town or city, but if the staff at your restaurant aren’t friendly, knowledgeable, and competent, then it’s highly unlikely that customers will return.

Many restaurant owners open their restaurants because they have a passion for cooking or because they’re in love with the idea of being their own boss. However, few of these individuals realize how important good HR is to running successful restaurants, at least at first. Inspiring your staff to be their best is as vital to your restaurant’s success as great food and atmosphere. That’s why we’ve brought you this guide, to help you grow into a great restaurant manager that can bring out the best in your employees.

Lead by Example

When you’re the owner or manager of a restaurant, you’re in charge, and whether you intend for it to happen, your staff will behave as you do. If you arrive at your job in a bad mood, then it’s likely that will spread throughout your staff. If you treat people poorly, then guess what your staff is going to do? You guessed it. They’re not going to respect one another. A team that operates in that manner is built for failure. On the other hand, if you come into work both inwardly and outwardly happy, then it’s likely that your employees will mirror that behavior.

Always be mindful of what you say and who you tell. You never know who’s listening, so it’s vital that you consistently show support for all employees. If someone needs extra guidance or a few friendly words, then provide them with that behind closed doors and keep it confidential. Similarly, restaurant work is intense. The work-related stress your team faces is likely to be a top cause of poor performance, disputes between team members, and poor interactions with guests. Set aside time to have one-on-one meetings with staff that seems stressed out and consider adopting an open-door policy where staff can meet with you to discuss any potential issues without fear of ramifications.

Similarly, if you’re the owner of the business, and have one, two, or more restaurant managers or a general manager working under you, make sure that they understand the importance of this policy. You can do this by making “lead by example” an integral component of your manager training program. Lastly, don’t be the kind of owner that’s never at the business. Take the time to check-in on both your managers and lower-level employees regularly. Not only does this give you the opportunity to observe your team’s attitude in action, but it demonstrates that you care about their well-being, helping you develop a winning company culture which can help curb employee turnover.

Managing Staff to Enhance Operations

Having a well-conceived training program not only increases the efficiency of your staff, but it also encourages them to work as a team. Printing out a list of all the goals that you would like them to achieve is a good first step. Ensure that every goal can be easily measured as this will help you to ascertain what is working for you and what needs to be changed.

One of the best ways to ensure that these goals are achieved is to create customized plans for the various roles in your restaurant. For example, the front of house staff should be trained to tackle demanding customers, and your culinary staff should be trained to work under pressure but still be able to provide dishes of the highest quality. There should be no differences in the training routine for the respective roles as this will ensure that all of your restaurant employees conform to the same set of standards.

As a manager, it’s your job to ensure that each employee clearly understands their responsibilities and the goals you’ve set for them. In the hospitality industry, much of your team might be made up of very young, part-time employees that don’t make much more than minimum wage. These relatively inexperienced workers are going to rely on you for guidance and help. In some cases, they might be so new to the working world that they don’t even understand the skills they lack. In these instances, you must clearly communicate expectations and ensure that they get the training they need to hit their goals.

Everyone learns differently, so it’s best to try different methods for training your staff, including classroom instruction, written instructions, and on-the-job (OTJ) training techniques. Ask a senior staff member or manager to demonstrate something that trainees can watch and replicate as an alternate way of learning, known as shadowing. Others may learn faster from an instruction manual or a detailed recipe, with a senior member of staff on-hand to step in if necessary. When teaching front-of-house staff techniques for dealing with demanding guests, you may find that roleplaying is the most effective method.

Motivating Your Employees

There’s no point in trying to motivate your employees if you are not motivated or enthusiastic. You should treat each day on the job and every shift as an opportunity to gain satisfaction from your role. Having employees that not only leave but enter your restaurant with a beaming smile on their face should be your primary objective. Happy guests will return often and tell their friends about their positive experiences, and eventually, your business will boom.

A top tip for managing your employees’ motivation is to set up rotations well in advance so that your team will know what shifts they’re working many weeks in advance. Working in the restaurant industry can be incredibly draining, so letting staff members know their shifts encourages them to arrange their life around work, instead of the other way round.

Offering incentives is a fantastic way to motivate your staff. For example, an employee of the month contest is an excellent technique to raise motivation and encourage friendly competition. One way to establish a dish that isn’t selling well is to tell your staff that whoever sells a certain amount wins a cash prize from the restaurant or a gift card for their favorite store. You could also consider offering your team other perks like free or discounted meals on days that they work as a way to reward them for their efforts.

Encouraging Your Staff to Work as a Team

There’s no greater asset to a restaurant manager than employees who can work together effectively. A good starting point is to inject a little fun into your pre-shift meetings. Start this by having some silly team building activities and funny icebreakers. This only takes you a few minutes but makes things more personal for all members of your team and helps you set a friendly tone for the meeting ahead.

All restaurants have a hierarchy. At the top is the manager. It doesn’t matter who’s at the bottom, as long as there’s no member of your team who thinks that it’s them. Every person on your staff is a vital component of the day-to-day operations of your restaurant, and you should make everyone aware of that. Ensure that you’re respectful and friendly to all of them and that they’re respectful of each other.

Restaurant kitchens won’t function without a tremendous amount of teamwork, and it has to be you who inspires it and ensures that it doesn’t falter. A successful restaurant is built on camaraderie, effective communication, and collaboration. The perfect dynamic is forged by relying on each other whether it’s a quiet Sunday afternoon or a hectic Friday night. Let your staff know that you’re there for them anytime. Everybody will need help at some point; it could be you or another employee. So, be sure to offer help before someone has to ask for it, and this will encourage your staff to do the same.

how to manage restaurant staff

Implementing Technology to Better Manage your Staff

Up until this point, we’ve discussed tools, tactics, and programs you can use to manage and motivate your team. We’ve focused on the human side of the equation if you will. But that’s just part of the picture. You can also use technology to manage your team better. Hands down, the best tool for the job is a modern, tablet point of sale (POS) system.

One of the key benefits of a POS system is the advanced reporting and analytics capabilities. This feature gives managers and owners detailed insight into the performance of their business. For example, understanding labor costs, the food that sells the most, and the employees that bring in the most business is more straightforward. To manage your staff effectively, that last example is particularly important. With a POS you can quickly identify underperforming staff members that are in need of coaching. You can who your top performers are so you can staff them on shifts you know will be busy.

Similarly, POS systems can tell you who opens a register, as well as the open and close amounts. This might seem like basic information, but it’s a check and balance that can help you isolate or eliminate serious issues like employee theft. While it would be great if every employee were trustworthy, it’s just not the case and having a tool like a POS is a great way to stay on top of this issue.
Lastly, POS systems offer many tools that make your employees lives much easier. Here are a few examples:

  • Splitting a check evenly by just hitting a few buttons simplifies what is often an overly complicated task
  • A kitchen printer can send orders back to kitchen staff right from the POS, preventing errors
  • Table layout features can help your host seat customers and distribute tables efficiently and equitably, preventing disagreements between staff


These seemingly simple features will do wonders to make your employees’ lives easier. Why does that matter? As a manager, one of your primary goals should be to reduce or simplify the trivial tasks your team needs to deal with on each shift. Why? Because it allows your staff to focus on the big pictures tasks that will help your restaurant be more successful, such as ensuring that each customer has a great experience. A POS system is one of the best ways to do just that.

There you have tips, tricks, and technologies that you can use to manage your team better. As always, don’t feel pressure to roll out all of these at once. Take your time and begin with the ones you think will work best for your particular restaurant, see how it goes, and add others as needed. Just remember that the overall objective is to balance a happy, unified team with a management style that emphasizes excellent customer service and delicious food that keeps people coming back for years.

SEE ALSO: How to Manage a Restaurant Business

Ryan Gilmore is a writer at ShopKeep.

Ryan Gilmore

As Inbound Content Marketing Manager at ShopKeep, a leading iPad Point of Sale System, Ryan Gilmore uses his extensive experience in small business technology to create educational content that helps merchants run and grow their businesses more effectively.