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Managers, Lift Your Attitude to Lead Your Staff.

Restaurant staff take cues from their managers

It’s been said that you can tell the mood of a chef by eating his or her food. Similarly, it’s been argued that winemakers and their wines resemble one another. In the case of restaurant staffs, the attitudes of managers are reflected in the demeanor of employees under them.

Anyone who’s been in the restaurant business for even a little while has seen the signs of managerial burnout, which usually includes an uninspired, unmotivated, and uncaring attitude. It’s bad enough that such a manager is unhappy and probably not very effective. But what’s worse is that these negative attitudes trickle down the proverbial food chain. In the same way that children pick up and emulate the attitudes, perspectives, and even vocabulary of their role-model parents, restaurant staff members take their cues from the top. In other words, you get the level of training and behavior you dish out and deserve.

If you recognize the telltale signs of burnout, then it’s time to consider a few thoughtful actions that can help turn the situation around.

Review your general demeanor. As managers, we always tell floor staff that the customer doesn’t care that you’ve had a bad day. But if you, the manager, are in a bad mood or had a fight with a higher-up or someone in your personal life, you should flip the mirror and take a look at yourself. While your staff probably does care how you feel, they shouldn’t bear the brunt of it. So cast the disgruntled feelings aside and shine with the same sunny attitude you would want your staff to display.

Consider ways to be effective and motivating rather than destructive and de-motivating. Daily lineup is a good place to start. As the staff finishes their napkin folding before the shift begins, you are probably too busy with everyday minutiae to have scheduled something concrete to discuss at lineup. Unfortunately, lineups on the fly don’t really work. You should always prepare a game plan or your staff will get the impression that you’re wasting their time and that you are disorganized and unenthusiastic.

Create a lineup plan or schedule of topics at the beginning of the week to be covered over the course of the week. Figure out how to break up the topics and attach objectives and goals to each issue. Good discussion points include policy changes, updates on incentive programs, team performances, comp sales, and the service realities within the restaurant.

Go into the meeting with a good demeanor, a serious but positively motivated tone, and a solid focus. Always turn off your pager or cell phone, and be sure to address any necessary follow-ups from previous lineups. Let your staff know that you value their time and that they are important; they will respond accordingly.

Understand your role as a leader and try to be the bridge between the kitchen and the front-of- house staff. Often restaurants have chef/owners or celebrity chefs who focus almost exclusively on the kitchen and look at lineup and floor duty as a chore. An effective manager can bridge the gap between the kitchen and the floor and build esprit de corps—a smooth, rewarding interaction between the two.

Take time off to rejuvenate. Overworked managers are not effective in their own jobs and are not good staff role models. They are sure to have shorter fuses. A day or two off can remedy that.

Become an active manager. If you find that you have settled into that comfortable space of sitting in front of the computer and not getting out there and motivating your staff and touching the customers, you’re sending the message that the customers and staff just aren’t that important.

At the end of the day, every good manager knows that the heart of the restaurant is its staff and its customers. Put your best foot forward toward keeping the positive vibes flowing, and everyone will benefit.

Originally published in June 2014, this article has been updated on June 17, 2019
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This is an interesting point. Happy staff is an indication of good management - Rachel Reflex