Managing staff is both the most complex and rewarding part of becoming a restaurant manager for the first time. You have a vision for how you want the restaurant to run, smoothly and with exceptional customer service. After all, you were once on the floor or in the kitchen, and you know all the things that can go wrong and you want to fix it – immediately.

This is a trap for new managers, thinking you are the boss now and all you need to do is tell your staff what to do. This is a myth because people hate being told what to do. Here are 7 tips on how to transition into a management role with success.

1. Become a leader, not a boss or friend

The danger transitioning into a restaurant manager role is either being a boss or a friend.

Being a boss

Some feel apprehensive about taking on a restaurant manager’s role particularly if they feel insecure about being the designated leader. They will often seek absolute compliance from their staff to give them confidence “they are the boss!” Very soon, they learn that compliance is not the same as commitment and they are likely to face frustration and failure.

Being a boss relies almost entirely on your position of power and authority to control your staff to get things done. Being a “boss” kills motivation, stifles innovation and causes negativity to infiltrate a team.

Your staff will only do the minimum and no more because they resent being “told” what to do. They won’t feel empowered therefore there is no job satisfaction. Without job satisfaction, your staff will lack commitment, and your customer service levels will drop.

Being a friend

If you have been promoted from within, there is the danger of wanting to be a friend to the staff you previously worked with. Being a friend causes resentment as it increases the potential for favoritism. Trying to be a ‘friend’ takes away any objectivity that is required when making decisions or dealing with issues. Your staff will be confused at any given point of time wondering which hat you are wearing (boss or friend?). The danger is, you may find yourself in a position where you must choose, be a boss or lose a friend.

The challenge for you transitioning into a restaurant manager is to nurture a strong sense of commitment to your staff. This does not mean building individual friendships; it means building teams.

2. Create a shared vision and values

Many problems arise when the front of house and back of house don’t communicate. It creates a culture of “That’s not my job!” and those who suffer are the patrons.

Your role is to bring everyone together and create a team environment. That means developing a shared vision for the restaurant and a shared set of values.

The only way for this to work well is, to involve your staff. Ask them their views, their thoughts their feelings on how they would like to see the restaurant succeed. Together create a vision and shared values. If you create it – you own it. If they help create it, they own it.

It’s not enough to create a vision for success; you must also print it out where your people can see it every single day and should be the focus of your team meetings. Living and breathing your vision and values.

3. Ensure your systems and processes are effective

A well-functioning restaurant is only as good as your systems and processes. Take McDonald’s for example; they have perfected their systems and processes so that when you order a burger and fries, it’s consistent every time, anywhere you go in the world.

It’s your role as a restaurant manager to ensure that your systems and processes work. Ask your team where the blockages are. Let them come up with improvement ideas and together implement a plan to fix them.

If you put good staff in to operate poor systems and processes, you are setting them up to fail. Why? Because you will only see your staff as failing, not the flaws in the system and processes itself. This can be demotivating for your team and will ultimately lead to good staff leaving.

On the other hand, no matter how good your systems and processes are, staff still needed to operate them which involves adequate training and support.

Sales, marketing, food service, stock control, administration, food production, and finance should all have management systems in place to control them. These functions cannot work in isolation. You need to ensure all your team pull together and work across functions to be effective.[


Restaurant Manager

4. Keep your people accountable

When you assume the responsibility of the restaurant, you become accountable to some form of authority. You are usually measured against a set of key performance indicators and are managed against these measures accordingly. It might be your food costs, labor costs, food safety record, how many times you turn tables or net profit. Regardless of the measure, you will be kept accountable. This should be the same for your staff.

First and foremost, before you can lead your team, you need to articulate the expected standards usually in the form of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

One of the biggest failings of new managers is failing to induct, train, coach and mentor their people against clearly communicated standards. It is dangerous to assume because a new staff member has previous hospitality experience they automatically know what to do. Even an experienced staff member needs to be inducted properly to ensure they meet the standards required by your restaurant, not someone else’s.

You cannot manage staff effectively if they don’t know what’s expected of them. You also can’t manage what you can’t measure.

If a staff member is under-performing and doesn’t know what to do, when to do it and how to do, it’s not their fault; it’s your fault because you either failed to communicate the required standards or, failed to provide adequate training.

5. Empower your people and give recognition

There is nothing like inspired and motivated staff members when they feel like they are making a difference. This means, don’t micromanage them. They need to feel empowered to make decisions without always referring to you.

The reality is, no one enjoys being micromanaged. This is the fastest way to turn your staff against you. It is, therefore, important learn how to delegate, learn how to set deadlines and establish expectations then let your staff get on with it with the right support and training.

When your staff does something right – let them know. Nothing builds resentment as quickly as you taking the credit for their good work. It’s the same if a staff member makes an innocent mistake. You need to step up and accept part of the blame for not giving enough direction, giving the wrong advice, or not checking in with them.

To build a team, focus on what your staff does right not what they do wrong. Regularly recognize them for working together as a team and focus on the positives.

6. If you make a mistake admit it

Just because you are the new restaurant manager, it doesn’t mean to say you need to know everything about food service and running a restaurant. Your staff will work this out very quickly. To gain trust and respect, if you don’t know something, admit it. Get some advice and be willing to listen and learn.

If you make a mistake – congratulate yourself you are human. Admit it and apologize and do this quickly.


7. Hire on attitude

The nature of hospitality is that you will have high staff turnover for a variety of reasons. When you hire new people, worry less about their experience and more about their attitude. You can teach skills you can’t teach attitude. Hire those who share the same shared values and who are positive in their outlook. They will always make good team members, and you will begin to shine as you transition into a formidable restaurant manager.


Restaurant Manager


Carolyn (Caro) is an inspirational leader, motivator and founder of Strategez for Success. Caro holds a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA), is a Certified Practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), a Sales Trainer, Business Coach and published Author.

As a former General Manager in the hospitality industry, she fully understands the challenges of running a food and beverage operation. It’s all about leadership.

Caro provides easy to follow Strategez to help you achieve your personal, professional and business goals. Check out her free resources on to help you succeed.