Restaurant Management Tips: A Manager's Guide to Success in 2021

by Katie Sawyer, 7 minutes read
HOME blog restaurant management tips a manager s guide to success

The restaurant industry is diverse and has opportunities for you to advance in your career. In fact, you can even become a manager in just a few years (five, in most cases).

But what does it take to manage a restaurant efficiently?

Continue reading to learn tips for becoming a great leader in restaurant management.

What training do you need to be a restaurant manager?

You'll likely need at least a high school diploma to be considered for a restaurant manager position. However, most restaurants want to hire managers with experience in the food industry or management positions.

So it’s ideal to begin as a cook, waiter, or another entry-level position to learn the ropes. This preps you to take on bigger responsibilities, like becoming an assistant manager.

From there, you can set your sights on being a shift manager. A role as a shift manager opens the door to upper-level management opportunities, such as being hired as a front-of-the-house, restaurant, or regional manager.

You might even end up becoming the owner (or buying a franchise).

But to grow into that role, you’ll need to hone various skill sets and understand the operations of each department you’ll run. For instance, you should know the workflow of cooks in the kitchen and how best to organize hosts and waiters on the floor.

To get a better idea of the skills needed, you need to understand a restaurant manager’s responsibilities.

What are the core responsibilities of a restaurant manager?

To excel in restaurant management, you need to balance multiple responsibilities.

That might mean handling issues behind the scenes in the kitchen or on the frontlines with customers.

Although there are many things you’ll be responsible for managing, here’s an overview of those core areas you’ll oversee as a restaurant manager.

Hiring staff

Restaurants don’t run themselves — you need a team of trustworthy workers to keep everything running smoothly. This means interviewing and hiring the best associates.

Then once you bring them on board, you’ll have to train them well, so they excel in their role.

That means ensuring your team follows rules, administering performance reviews, and finding replacements when necessary.

This requires having exceptional interpersonal skills and empathy to prevent miscommunication.

Accounting and finances

What’s the key to running a successful business? Making a profit. If you fail to generate more money than you’re spending, then you’ll have a deficit. And before long, you’ll have to lay off workers, or worse, shut down.

To prevent this, you’ll need to set budgets and monitor the books to ensure you don’t go overboard. You’ll have to analyze financial reports and understand metrics (as it relates to your financial well-being).

Not sure what metrics to monitor? Typically, you’ll want to look at things like goods sold, new operating income, labor costs, inventory expenses, and profit. Thankfully, you don’t have to do all of this manually. You can ease the process with the right software that automates data collection, analysis, and reporting. However, you still have to keep watch to see what changes to make to improve financial performance.

Managing inventory

Keeping stocks full (but not overly full) is vital. If inventory decreases too much, you could run into stockouts. And when this happens, you’ll have a group of unhappy customers, which can be detrimental to your restaurant.

Negative Yelp reviews can tarnish your reputation and decrease cash flow. So you’ll need to monitor the shelves in the kitchen to ensure there’s enough food, beverages, utensils, packaging, and so on.

Most modernized restaurants use inventory management software to keep track of stock levels.


If a restaurant is a wheel, you’re the operator who keeps it well-oiled and turning smoothly. In other words, monitoring the front of the house, the register, the kitchen, the stockroom, and the books.

It’s your job to work in the business just as much as you work on the business. You may even find yourself pitching in and serving dishes, cleaning the kitchen, and cooking. So be prepared to wear multiple hats.

Managing payroll and scheduling

Happy workers are the best workers. The fastest way to employees’ heart? Ensure on-time (and accurate) payments and set reasonable schedules. The goal is to not over-work or underwork employees.

Get their feedback to learn their family situation and availability. This way, you don’t place unbearable stress on them to show up at unreasonable times.

Smart staff scheduling tools offer transparency to scheduling. Everyone knows what they have to do and when. Scheduled someone to host on Tuesday and serve on Thursday? They’ll know right away using her computer or mobile device.

If your employee needs a day off, they can request it via the software so you can fill the role with someone available.

Customer service

You have a functional restaurant with happy workers. And because of this, you can provide ultimate customer experiences. But there’s no way to prevent dissatisfaction for everyone. There will be disgruntled patrons, which requires your customer service skills to ease the situation.

That means top communication skills, like listening and empathy, should come naturally to you. You’ll want those skills if you have to issue refunds, provide discounts, or respond to online reviews. And it doesn’t hurt to check in with customers during their meals to ensure their expectations are met.

Marketing and advertising

A good restaurant manager also takes some ownership of marketing and advertising. You won’t have to worry about this if you’re working in a massive franchise.

But, if you’re working in a smaller restaurant, then you’ll have to set aside a budget to cover marketing costs. Your marketing might include paid social media ads, posting on organic social channels, and optimizing your Google My Business listing.

How do you determine restaurant operation costs?

As a restaurant or cafe manager, it’s your role to keep operational costs to a minimum. Use just enough to cover necessary expenses, and you’ll keep the higher-ups content.

But how do you go about this?

Well, first, you have to understand the various operational costs of restaurants: Food, beverage, and labor costs. There are two types of food costs — per-plate and overall food expenses.

To determine per-plate costs, you’ll calculate the cost of ingredients for each menu item. For example, a burger may have two buns, ¼ lb of beef, two lettuce leaves, four pickles, a slice of tomato, pepper, salt, and sauce. Then on the side, there are fries and a beverage.

The total cost for the meal is $3.75.

If the goal is to keep food costs at 25%, you’d have to charge $15.

($3.75 x 100) / 25 = $15.00

If this is the most popular dish, then it’s easy to predict inventory and expenses (under normal operating conditions). But most restaurants have a long list of menu items, so you’ll need to factor in your entire menu.

You can use this formula to get an idea of overall food costs:

(COGS / Total food sales) x 100 = Overall food expense percentage

Let’s say your cost of goods (COGS) sold is $4,000. The total food sales is $15,000. Your formula would look like this:

($4,000 / 15,000) x 100 = 26%

According to some industry-wide guidelines, operational costs should resemble the following:

Food cost at 21-31%, labor cost at 25-30%, prime costs (food and labor) at 55-60%, and expenses at 30%.

This isn’t set in stone. Watch your food costs to ensure you’re charging appropriately for menu items. As ingredient rates increase, so should your menu prices.

How to control restaurant management costs

If you’re not careful, the costs of managing a restaurant can skyrocket. So here are a few ways to ensure this doesn’t happen.

Reduce labor costs with technology

Having scheduling tools makes it easier to plan shifts well in advance. You can map out busy and slow days and refrain from scheduling too many (or too few) workers at those times.

You can also sync your POS with the software to prevent employees from clocking in too soon. An employee clocking in even 10 minutes early each day can add up over a year.

Spread non-service work throughout the day or week

Cooking, serving food, and running the register are the primary duties in a restaurant. But there are smaller, equally important tasks that require attention. For example, cleaning the fridge, polishing glasses, and organizing the stockroom.

Have workers tackle these duties during slow hours and days to cut back on labor hours otherwise spent at the start or end of shifts.

Cut back on spoilage and spillage

Ordering too much of any ingredient isn’t a good idea, especially if it spoils quickly. Keep in mind shelf life and projected sales volumes for that item. No sense in stocking up on a condiment that customers rarely request.

Also, label and mark the expiration or use-by dates on all food and beverage items. Use the FDA food storage guidelines to prevent spoilage (and food poisoning).

Spillage is also a problem if servers or cooks make errors in customers’ orders. Train your staff to answer questions about menu items accurately. This is critical if there are concerns about a food allergy.

A well-integrated POS system is also vital to keep track of inventory levels and prevent overstocking and stockouts.

Become a successful restaurant manager

You can be a successful restaurant manager with the right training, consistency, and organization. Then if you can surround yourself with the right people, it becomes even easier to do your job.

And to simplify it even more, ensure you use the right staff scheduling platform. That way, you can promote transparency and better manage a restaurant based on everyone’s availability.

Ready to get started? Then try deputy for free today.

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