Six years ago my manager pulled me over to his table and asked me to sit down. When I sat down next to him he told me that he saw a lot of potential in me and wanted to give me some good advice. He told me, “get your staff to love and respect you and they will follow”. I didn’t quite understand what he told me that night until I had him explain.
He explained that most managers use their position as leverage to get their employees to do what they need to do. These type of managers can be efficient, but won’t succeed in creating a family atmosphere at their work place. He then explained in the restaurant industry it is very important to create a family atmosphere.
A successful restaurant must acquire customers that love to come back and bring family and friends. Creating a family environment welcomes guests and family back. To create a family atmosphere you must get your employees to work together well and follow your leadership.
It is an abstract idea to get your employees to love and respect you, but it is possible because our manager had done so. He treated each employee as if they were a son or daughter and made sure that we knew that he was proud of how hard we worked. If there was a problem with an employee he took special care to resolve the problem quickly even taking time out of his day to take that employee to lunch to solve the problem.
This system worked and often I hear guest say they love coming to our restaurant to eat because of the atmosphere and staff. So taking time out for you staff and showing them that you care about them goes a long way in the overall atmosphere of your restaurant.
The other day my manager came up to me and told me a story about his earlier managing days at a previous restaurant. The story had to deal with showing up before any of your employees do to work. His conclusion was always be the first person to work, even if it is only by a few moments. After thinking about it I absolutely agree. Showing up before works is important for a few reasons.
First, you are the manager therefore you are responsible for all your subordinates. If something happens to any of them or they do something that is illegal or against policy you are responsible and will have a hard time explaining why you weren’t there to possibly prevent that event. This leaves you no room to defend yourself and you are definitely going to be held responsible.
Second, showing up before anyone else gives you time to gather vital information about big parties coming in, any special guests, and time to get your managing duties in order for the night. It is my belief the more prepared a restaurant manager is before the employees show up the more confident those employees are with their manager.
Third, you are the example of the room. There has been many studies done that show that upper management’s behavior trickles down to lower level employees. As the manager of the room you are upper management. If you set the time you want to get to work at 2:00 and can’t show up till 2:30, but the rest of the employees show at 3:00 then no one knows that you were late. If you plan on coming in the same time as the rest of your workers and something happens where you are late, your employees absolutely notice. You do not want to leave the example of being late in acceptable.
In the restaurant industry it seems the only time things get crazy are when you are not prepared. Being a manager means that you have assumed the responsibility of “holding down the fort” and requires extra work and preparation to be done well.
Having mentors or more experienced managers coach you as a young restaurant professional is key in becoming successful. I can’t tell you how much I learn from my two mentors Brian and Carl. These two individuals help me transform daily into a more experienced and confident restaurant professional. They are also there to guide me through various learning curves and keep me in check if I get a head of myself.
I meet with Brian to go over goals and what I am doing to help attain these goals. It is vital to have someone who you can trust and talk to about this because the restaurant business is very quick paced and competitive. If you don’t have you stuff together opportunity can pass on by quickly. Also, it is important to have mentors who are not related to you because family can be biased towards different career decisions that would be a great for you.
If you want land your dream job you need to be at the top of your game. Mentors are there for you to give you advice based on what they have learned. After a week of managing the Steakhouse I like to go over some of the challenges with Carl and discuss how I solved them. Carl’s feedback is critical to me because I am constantly learning and working of improving my management skills.
So I encourage anyone who is looking to become an influential manager to have a couple mentors. There are many successful people out there who would be honored to coach you and help you attain their level of success.
Yesterday I was serving for Thanksgiving, the night had gone incredibly smooth, but when I picked up my last check for the night the table had completely stiffed me (if you have been in the service industry getting stiffed is just about at the top of things that drive you crazy). At first I was a little upset, but then I realized how other tables that night tipped me really well and made up for that stiff. This incident brought up my topic for today that a tip is not guaranteed.
When I first started to serve tables I would foolishly let stiffs ruin about 30 minutes of my night while I tried to figure out what went wrong. Now, after many years of serving and being in the restaurant industry I realize that being stiffed isn’t necessarily the servers fault, rather it can come down to many factors outside of the servers control. I will admit, there are times when a server gets stiffed because of poor service.
What is important to remind your staff is that the only control they have over their guests is the service they provide them. Stiffs are going to happen. What I like to do is think that the table that just stiffed me, accident or not, has contributed revenue to the restaurant and has helped secure my job. You may want to hold that grudge on tables that stiffed you, but it is not going to help you in any way.
Serving has many perks, great pay, tips every night, lower than average work hours, fast paced, etc. It also has draw backs and the potential for stiffs is one of them. It is a part of the job. Next time you are stiffed be thankful for the tips that you have made that night, remembering that tips are never guaranteed.
A very wise man once told me “if you choose a job you love, then you will never work a day for the rest of your life”. I was told this as a rookie bus boy who had no experience in the restaurant business. At that time I didn’t understand this quote because I dreaded work. I dreaded work because we were slammed every night from open till close with guests and I was still learning how to bus tables.
Now, seven years later, that quote is starting to become clear to me. Most days I look forward to going to work. The other days, I am only reluctant to go to work because I am with family and friend celebrating, but as soon as I get to the restaurant I am very thankful for my job and happy to be there.
People who love the restaurant industry will understand me, those who don’t will think I am crazy, but I really enjoy not knowing what to expect when the doors open and the guest come in. I enjoy talking with thousands of strangers over the years and learning from them all. I enjoy the feeling of being super busy and I love the suspense of the tip from a customer. Also, I really enjoy having a second family at work.
My work family and I spend all the Holidays together. We are there for one another through the good days and the hard days. They make me laugh and sometimes make my life hard, but I am always very thankful for them because they are all great people and hard workers.
So, this Thanksgiving I am very Thankful for my job and those who I work with. Because of both, I “never work a day” in my life.
Starting out in the restaurant industry I had the pleasure of working with some great people who moved up into management and other positions of power and responsibility. Because we worked together a majority of the time the qualities they possessed rubbed off onto me. One quality I especially wanted to acquire was becoming a transformational leader.
You don’t have to be the most powerful/important person at work to become transformational, what you need is the willingness to teach your craft. I started out as a stocker and was taught how to bus tables one-day-a-week. Eventually, I was given the opportunity to become a full time bus boy. As a bus boy, I was trained how to server tables. After a while I proved that I could serve tables and was given the opportunity to do so. Same goes for becoming an assistant manager. As a server I had a manager who believe in me and began teaching me how to become an effective manager.
Being a transformational individual requires you seeing potential in others and reaching out to them. You can start small and let them know that they would be great at the job you do with some training. This is the time you can take them under your “wing”. I am a big believer of this because it not only empowers others it creates loyalty. Your co-workers see others working hard and making a difference given opportunity and they want the same. This motivates them to work hard and make a difference. The loyalty comes into play from promoting from within.
A great example of promoting from within would be giving the bus personnel an opportunity for the open server spot before opening up that job to the public. There are two reasons this works well. First, this is how I was blessed with my past and current opportunities. Second, I have seen it motivate most if not all individuals to work harder and create a better work environment and restaurant.
There are a few things you can truly do to make a difference in another person’s life. Helping them transform into a better professional is one of those ways. If you are not currently helping another person better them self professionally I encourage you to start doing so. It will not only make you feel good about their achievements it will help you become a better leader.
Working in the restaurant industry is definitely a challenging job and isn’t for everyone. I receive request often about any job openings from people who know I work in the industry and I like to ask that person a few questions before referring them to a restaurant manager. The questions I ask are different and vary depending on the person and the situation, but they are all concerning the same underlining requirements you must meet to be a good fit in the restaurant industry.
First, you must be willing to give up weekend nights and holidays. These are the nights that restaurants do most of their business. I ask questions concerning this issue first because most people are not willing to go to work when everyone is celebrating a holiday or going out to party.
Second, you must be good with people and have a naturally good personality/attitude. Have you ever gone out to eat and had a waiter/waitress that had a dull personality or attitude? If the server has a bad personality/attitude this can often trickle down to the rest of the dining experience.
Third, you must be able to handle stress well and have patience. There will be times when you get double or even triple sat, have a guest with lots of questions, and have a table that needs to leave NOW. To be a successful server you must not let these circumstances stress you out because that is when you make mistakes.
If the person I am talking to seems to meet the three qualities I usually will refer them to a manager. Serving is a great job that pays well for the time spent doing so, but you must choose the “right” people for the job.
If you have experience in the restaurant industry share with us the core qualities you look for in your wait staff.