October 11, 2021

Effective Leadership in Restaurants: How Changing Your Message Changes The Game

When it comes to management and leadership, there’s a fine line between telling someone what to do and guiding them. A good leader communicates in a way that makes people want to do what they say, but what does that look like? And what does it look like with “difficult employees” or the ones who push back against a more firm approach. What does that look like in the restaurant industry? I think we can change our approach to create a culture of positivity and inclusion, while keeping standards high and the whole team on point.


At the core, this is a move from “I’m telling you what to do because I’m your boss” to “I’m helping you and giving you what you need to do your job so your life can be better and the job can be easier.”


Start at the top: How do you and your leaders think?


It starts at the top. The simplest way to change your staff messaging is to make it part of how you and your management team think. 


Think about the following:

  • How do you want your employees to experience their jobs?
  • How can you help coach your employees instead of simply “telling” them?
  • How can you give your team the resources they need to meet your demands. Do they have these resources already?
  • Overall, what can you do to make their jobs easier?


None of these questions are asking your team to do less, or encouraging laziness. Instead, they can lead to the creation of a workplace culture that does just the opposite. Employees that have what they need, and feel comfortable asking for help are more likely to go above and beyond their baseline job duties.


Keep thinking this way, and get your managers and leaders on board by doing the same thing with them. Your culture will shift, your restaurant will become a better place to work, your turnover rate will fall, your staff will be better and more pleasant and your guests will notice!



Creating a culture of kindness.


There is a huge advantage to being kind and supportive (while also being firm and consistent) when managing restaurant workers. Your staff run your restaurant. They serve your guests, cook the food and drive your sales. Chances are they will quickly lose the motivation to hustle if they feel anything other than supported and valued


Give your team what they need, and treat them well. A culture of kindness and compassion will go a long way. I mean, this is hospitality for pete's sake! 


However, If there is an issue with a particular employee and you feel that you’ve exhausted your methods to communicate with them, the kindest thing you can do is let them go. The rest of your staff will benefit, and so will your venue.  This is a very important part of creating a culture of kindness. Keeping employees that aren’t a fit will eventually make it impossible for you to uphold the standards you are working to create. 



Expand your training program to solidify these messages.


I think it is more important now than ever to reinvent restaurant training methods. Creating a concept of training that is a modern and real-time process reinforces to your staff that you and your managers are there to give them what they need. I believe that training is the “magic bullet'' that makes a restaurant worker's job good - or not so good.


Train new employees thoroughly, including details and procedures you think are mundane. Take the time to do it well the first time, so less confusion will come up after training is complete. Training employees well when they are first hired says loud and clear;  “I’m helping you and giving you what you need to do your job so your life can be better and the job can be easier.”  


How communication is vital to your training program.


After a new hire has been fully trained and is “on the floor” do you consider them to have every bit of information they will ever need? The answer is most likely no.


That’s why constant communication is a vital part of a modern training program, and is the best way to really send the message that your employees are of high value.


When a menu item changes and you communicate that to your staff...that is training. If you show everyone how to do the new side work...that is also training. When you make sure they know the steps of service they should be following...yep, training too. AND all of it is a way to give them what they need to do their jobs and make their lives at work a little easier.  


For a deeper dive into training, check out: “Investing in Your Best Assets: How Training and Organization Improve The Employee Experience”

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Make it part of how your restaurant is organized


Get organized and be consistent with messages. Make sure you’re well organized when it comes to what you expect from your team. In my experience, the managers who seemed to be the most frustrated with staff not “following the rules” were the ones who weren’t too clear about what the “rules” were themselves, or kept changing them without communicating that to the team.


Having all the information and details about your menu, procedures, uniform, special events and procedures available to your staff is crucial. These details are the core of what they need to do their jobs efficiently. The best place to start is to get organized. It may seem like a big job, but the time spent doing this will pay off ten fold in hours saved on the floor. 


For a deeper dive into organizing your restaurant, check out “Simplify Your Restaurant: Why Your Team Will Thank You”


This is a great place to use technology. Find a good app that can help you organize your restaurant in a way that covers everything and is easy for your staff to find and learn. Remember, most restaurant workers today grew up getting all of their information from a screen or a device of some kind. Instead of fighting that, make it an advantage for your venue, your managers and your staff. 


Conclusion: Change your message, change your restaurant.


Is your management team saying “do what I tell you” or “let me help you do your job better”? If it is the former, re-think and re-invent how you communicate with your staff. 


Make your re-invented message part of your training, part of how you organize your restaurant, and make it the source of your restaurant's work culture. Your staff will thank you, they will stay longer, work better, make more money and their job will be that much easier. 


Didn’t find what you were looking for? Check out these related articles:

  1. 8 Things Highly Effective Restaurant Managers Do
  2. 11 Tips For Effective Restaurant Management
  3. 7 Tips For Restaurants To Keep Employees Happy
  4. How To Motivate Your Restaurant Employees

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