Concept and Menu
Most insiders would agree that the primary focus of restaurants, and Food and Beverage Operations is centered on food. That is, after all, the main reason why guests choose to patronize an establishment-to eat. But that is actually quite an oversimplification. Eating (literally fulfilling our biological need for fuel) tends to happen at the Quick-Service level (QSR, aka Fast Food) and progress upward, through the many segments differentiated primarily by price point, combined with a level of service and sophistication, up to the fine-dining segment where the focus may still be on the food, but is also considered a “Dining” scenario, as the experience, in its totality, may include the destination, high level of service, expensive wine list, etc. This difference is often referred to as the “Socialization” aspect of our Industry, driven by the human social need, rather than the biological. This will generally be found in increasing levels as you go up the price scale, with every segment represented in between. Often in the Fast-Casual to Casual, and even Upscale-Casual, this eating versus Dining dynamic can get a little fuzzy in its definition, as each experience, individually, is often different. One person’s eating may be another’s dining. Certainly, the industry has multiple offerings across virtually every price and service point, across all food types, ethnic categories, locations, concepts, and menus.
That being said, we nonetheless return to the main driver for the Industry overall-Food. Therefore, the Menu, which is the main food communication device, takes the primary focus. Simply put, guests want and need to know what is on the menu and about how much it will cost, as well as commonly included information: such as the style of food preparation; ingredients; and flavor profiles. They will certainly have additional questions as to the speed of service, the convenience of location, whether it can be delivered, etc., perhaps even up to the extensiveness of the Wine List. However, first and foremost, it’s about the menu. The menu must therefore embody and convey a clear food message, based on several aforementioned points, but also do so concisely, and in the format that suits the overall style of the business, comprehensively providing the food information in a neat, appropriate package. Menu formatting is a long, often separate topic, and outside the scope of this particular chapter; a brief breakdown is offered further on.
In classic academic break-outs, there are eight major points of a Restaurant Concept: Menu, Food, Price Point, Location, Service, Atmosphere, Quality, and Management.
Concepts and their accompanying vast array of Menu types are as varied as they are numerous. Today’s Restaurant landscape is the most competitive it’s ever been, across type, category, ethnicity, speed, convenience, or virtually any other manner of categorization. It’s almost to the point where many new competitive concept types and ideas are severely pushing the boundaries of any norms. Right up to new concepts that have as their main feature, eating in the dark so as to remove normal sensory capabilities moot, and thereby putting more focus on the food taste, texture, and quality!
Suffice to say that there are innumerable menu types as well, representing those concepts and as mentioned previously, largely embodying them as the main representation of a concept. Probably most commonly found in a folding menu type with four panels. Occasionally this may also just be a one-page menu with a front and back. Regardless of the number of pages, much of the printable area will contain menu information, starting from left to right, and generally beginning with Starters (appetizers and soups/salads), then moving over to Entrees, or Main Courses, finishing with Desserts. Other information that may be placed on some non-menu item space may contain information about the history, or ownership, or whatever the “story” may be about that restaurant. Additionally, such space is commonly used to sell beverages including alcohol.
Organization, Staffing, Training & Service
An Organization Chart conveys a common hierarchical, layered graphic, of how most restaurant management teams are organized and are known as top-down systems, patterned originally on the French Military by Escoffier. Virtually all restaurants continue to utilize such a system today, as decision and especially food production, tend to favor this top-down structure. It is definitely the common form used by virtually all kitchens, driven by the need for production and often, speed. In the FOH lower-level managers and even staff are often empowered with more input and even decision making as they tend to be much closer to the guest, and therefore less top-down structure is more commonly found in more contemporary restaurant structures, to a certain extent.
Staffing is an incredibly important part of any successful restaurant business, and it has two main components: the first is simpler and it is the quantity component. Simply put, having enough staff to properly service the forecasted amount of guests you expect over a shift, day, week, month. While simple enough as a concept, having enough staff can also be challenging as the turnover in many restaurants can often be quite problematic, especially given the younger, less committed nature of our worker demographic, and the more transient nature of their lifestyles. And while often challenging, it isn’t nearly as much as is the second component of staffing, that being, quality. Quantity is essentially a numbers game and has a more direct, objective approach to managing it, whereas the quality of any given staff is immeasurably subjective, and even guests value service by varying metrics and definitions.
The old saying that “you can’t afford to train (expense), but you absolutely can’t afford NOT to (service and performance failure)” is a common refrain. It is imperative to develop successful training systems that have numerous measurable components and to maintain significant management interaction and involvement in virtually all training processes. All too often managers tend to hand off the actual training process to trainers, and thereby distance, and even remove themselves from the process. This generally won’t produce positive results. Management must be an integral part of training at all times, and a major component of that process is to guide and evaluate the trainers, and the process overall.
Training is the backbone of any Service System for any restaurant. No amount of “goodwill” or “positive attitude” will overcome training shortcomings and their negative effect on service in the long run. Certainly, we want that goodwill and great server attitude from our service personnel, but those humanistic and subjective characteristics are an elusive, ever-changing, and difficult to “teach” aspect of service, and therefore, must be built upon a well-structured training system, and additionally, by a well-designed Operational Service System. Such a system is arguably much more tangible than the humanistic, intangible elements of Service, and can perhaps be thought of a bit like any manufacturing production delivery system, with consistent, sequenced, mostly predictable actions along a timeline.
Purchasing, Production & Sanitation
The process and job of selecting and purchasing F & B products are not altogether that different a process than buying similar goods for one’s personal use, but it is more sophisticated than that, and depending on the type of establishment, can be much more complex. Nonetheless, there are many similarities insofar as needing to have a steady supply and determining purchase quantities, quality, and timing considerations as well. Of primary consideration on the quality end, we generally use Purchase Specifications to guide us through the purchase of any specific product. It’s not enough to just purchase tortillas, when in fact, you need to specify tri-color six-inch, corn tortillas for the house-made chips you make with them, as opposed to twelve-inch flour tortillas that you also use, but to make a different menu item, such as a quesadilla. Virtually all products will be defined by the specifications or “Specs” developed by the Chef and or Owner, or Management in general, and commonly each vendor from whom we most consistently buy our products will have our Specs on record.
The quantities we purchase can also follow a pattern common for individuals, or households, insofar as we often purchase the same quantity of an item that we usually purchase, as it is common to have developed a pattern of consumption and usage, as will also happen in the business setting. However, we should make significant allowance for the additional variables seasonality, weekends, increases or decreases in item popularity, etc.. From there we would necessarily adjust our ordering to better fit our current usage patterns. The major difference between personal shopping and business purchasing is that we need to maintain our quality (via Specs!), and quantity for the purpose of maintaining our Food Cost. Incidentally, improper ordering quantities will often also negatively impact the guest, as we will have a tendency to extend the usage of our products beyond their appropriate usage time, in the case of over-ordering, and risk running low, or out of products from under-ordering. Neither is good.
Food and Beverage Costs combined are the single largest Cost an operator has to deal with and control. Food cost is typically 28-35% of food sales, and Beverages generally will be anywhere from 18-25% of Beverage sales, depending on whether alcohol, beer, wine, or just Non-alcoholics are sold. With the added expense area of labor, these three categories of controllable expenses are termed Prime Costs, and if not properly drilled down upon each and every shift, will make profitability a fantasy. Not to say that management should try to keep other costs under control, but t’s really all about Food and Labor cost control (unless the business sells a lot of alcohol, but generally speaking Food Sales account for 75-80% or more of total sales)
Food cost will be addressed in another Chapter, but for the understanding of labor cost, we need to dig in and cover a lot of material, as most FOH Managers are tasked with controlling, tracking, and reporting on it. And then taking action to reduce it (the usual case!), or if fortunate, to maintain it within the budget.
Labor costs consist of Salaries (Management) and Wages (hourly workers-most of the staff), as well as all payroll taxes, benefits, etc. The last few of these are often sub-classified as Employee Benefits on a Profit & Loss Statement (P & L), but are the direct result of the Payroll amounts that are incurred in order to operate the business. A general target of 30% is often used but that certainly depends on Concept type and a range of other factors. Salaries are not controllable by managers so we’ll leave that out of the discussion.
While each restaurant may have a different set of circumstances that may affect their Labor Cost Budget, it is nonetheless imperative that they have a forecasted budget, and work tirelessly to achieve it. With a budget in hand (or in the manager’s mind) a staffing schedule should be produced that both meets the staffing needs for efficiency and quality of guest service, but is also designed to meet the budget requirements. As discussed earlier, staff skills must be considered when determining staggered shifts to cover budget and service needs If it doesn’t meet those two metrics, it must be reworked until it does.
Throughout a working floor shift, all managers should be trained to keep a critical eye on the appropriateness of scheduling for each shift, and diligently comment through the Manager’s Log on the staffing levels and whether appropriate or not, relevant to meeting guest needs and whether the budget was achieved.
Often, scheduling responsibilities are dispersed between several managers in an effort to lessen the individual burden, while also offering less senior managers some experience with the process, commonly under the direction of another manager. Additionally, it’s considered beneficial to make managers responsible for a service department, or combination of them, so putting them in charge of a schedule is often a common way to introduce them to that ownership, and is one of the many ways we delegate smaller achievable tasks to junior managers, with the requisite follow-up and feedback necessary to any task delegation.
In another area of Cost Control, we have our second Cost-of-Goods, Costs-of-Goods-Sold (COS, or COGS). COGS are are the products we purchase, and then resell to our guests, and most commonly are just food and beverages. Therefore, our purchase price of each of these is tremendously important, as is the handling, storage, and security of these commodities.
One of the first Control points should always be the creation and consistent use of a costed-out, standardized recipe. Each menu item should have a known cost, which is not only essential to cost control, but also to product consistency, and therefore, quality. Certainly, we realize that there are many different items that can potentially be made in any given establishment., Each recipe will have a list of ingredients and the amount of each ingredient to use and of course the manner in which to prepare it. Each ingredient in the recipe can be costed out and the total used to determine the COG for the menu item. t The important thing to understand is that we need to be aware of the cost of these menu items, so we then will know how much to charge for them, in order to make them budget worthy and therefore, profitable.
Marketing & Business Plans
While there will be another Chapter focused on Marketing, it’s important to note how they are an integral part of FOH Management, and Operational success, and should be an integral part of each Manager’s job description; and further, how important it is to the success of the business for these topics to be the foundational underpinnings of their daily jobs. Too often the managers are unaware, too busy, and, or improperly trained to realize that they provide strategic direction, and largely serve as the roadmap to success. Simply put, you need a plan, and you need to implement and execute the plan.
Marketing is a tremendously important aspect of a restaurant’s Business Plan; as it serves to externalize the messaging to appropriate market segments, in an appropriate manner, in an effort to raise enough product and/or brand awareness, to stimulate guests to patronize a business.
Commonly internal marketing is where a FOH Manager can have the most impact in supporting and driving a comprehensive marketing plan; and that is by utilizing all the resources of the business to make sure the guest experience will be one that they will talk about in the external, general environment. Primarily through word-of-mouth, these thoroughly satisfied guests will market the restaurant through numerous communication channels, including and probably most importantly, by the invaluable word–of–mouth medium, which, by its very nature, is tremendously effective as a promotional vehicle, for it comes wrapped in credibility.
Budgets & Profitability
Another function of the Business Plan is that it will generally also produce a Forecasted Budget (Pro Forma), both from a top-line, Revenue position, but also from a bottom-line Profitability perspective as well; since strategies for each of them should’ve been the focus and in fact, the purpose of the action plans developed to specifically to improve performance in those areas. The Macro version addresses ways in which Revenue will be increased via a number of Micro steps, (i.e., marketing and guest relations strategies that should improve guest counts through repeat and new guest visits), or Cost/Expense reductions through better control processes, such as the use of proper glass racks in the dishwasher that reduces wine glass breakage. These two basic strategies, and many others, would be layered throughout an annual year, all contributing to improved Revenues or reduced Expenses, which again, help produce an improved bottom line, while also allowing for making the existing budget numbers.
The result is the new Budget, or Financial Projection, that will have incorporated those strategies and their effects into a comprehensive set of new Sales (revenue) numbers, as well as departmental Cost, or Expense Numbers (the reduction of which will lead to greater profitability). Therefore the business plan essentially produces a financial forecast that reflects a deductive, rational process, built on an integrated series of actionable processes that can be implemented, tracked, adjusted, and constantly evaluated. All in a systematic manner, that provides the business with a tangible road map with which to approach the opening of a business, or the coming operations of any upcoming fiscal year.
Included below is a generic version of a Job Description for a General Manager. Such Job Descriptions would be customized to fit a particular type of restaurant business as one size does not fit all, but many of the topics, aspects, and elements of the below description are viable. Commonly each Management, and even Leadership Position (Head, or Lead Server, as an example), would also have a similarly specific breakdown of their respective positions. These are an important part of the aforementioned Business Plan, as they determine who is responsible for what, and thereby clearly delineate roles and responsibilities for each aspect of the Plan, and which member of the management team is responsible for which parts (or combined parts) of the plan. Often two or three Managers or Departments may work on a strategy or action step simultaneously and collectively.
The Job Description should also include specific mention of individual Administrative Duties (such as the inclusion of Schedule Making as noted in bold below), as well as specific Financial responsibilities (also in bold), as examples.
SAMPLE - Restaurant Manager Job Description
Title: GENERAL MANAGER
Reports to: Owner/Director of Operations
Summary of Position:
Oversee and coordinate the planning, organizing, training, and leadership necessary to achieve stated objectives in sales, costs, employee retention, guest service and satisfaction, food quality, cleanliness, and sanitation.
Duties & Responsibilities:
- Understand completely all policies, procedures, standards, specifications, guidelines, and training programs.
- Ensure that all guests feel welcome and are given responsive, friendly, and courteous service at all times.
- Ensure that all food and products are consistently prepared and served according to the restaurant’s recipes, portioning, cooking, and serving standards.
- Achieve company objectives in sales, service, quality, appearance of facility and sanitation and cleanliness through training of employees and creating a positive, productive working environment.
- Control cash and other receipts by adhering to cash handling and reconciliation procedures in accordance with restaurant policies and procedures.
- Make employment and termination decisions.
- Fill in where needed to ensure guest service standards and efficient operations.
- Continually strive to develop your staff in all areas of managerial and professional development.
- Prepare all required paperwork, including forms, reports, and schedules in an organized and timely manner.
- Ensure that all equipment is kept clean and kept in excellent working condition through personal inspection and by following the restaurant’s preventative maintenance programs.
- Ensure that all products are received in correct unit count and condition and deliveries are performed in accordance with the restaurant’s receiving policies and procedures.
- Oversee and ensure that restaurant policies on employee performance appraisals are followed and completed on a timely basis.
- Schedule labor as required by anticipated business activity while ensuring that all positions are staffed when and as needed and labor cost objectives are met.
- Be knowledgeable of restaurant policies regarding personnel and administer prompt, fair, and consistent corrective action for any and all violations of company policies, rules, and procedures.
- Fully understand and comply with all federal, state, county, and municipal regulations that pertain to health, safety, and labor requirements of the restaurant, employees, and guests.
- Develop, plan, and carry out restaurant marketing, advertising, and promotional activities and campaigns.
- Be 21 years of age.
- Be able to communicate and understand the predominant language(s) of the restaurant’s trading area.
- Have knowledge of service and food and beverage, generally involving at least three years of front-of-the-house operations and/or assistant management positions.
- Possess excellent basic math skills and have the ability to operate a cash register or POS system.
- Be able to work in a standing position for long periods of time (up to 5 hours).
- Be able to reach, bend, stoop, and frequently lift up to 50 pounds.
- Must have the stamina to work 50 to 60 hours per week.
A normal day (or night) shift in a Food and Beverage Operation is usually anything but normal. Certainly, there are many shifts that occur without significant oddities or abnormalities, but generally, that is the exception, not the rule. In a guest-centric environment, where the primary customer/guest is a member of the general public, you never know what could come across your plate, hence the “anything but normal” statement. Additionally, you’ll have your staff to guide and direct, and since they’re human, they too, can be challenging. At least it makes for an interesting shift and career!
Commonly, a Manager/Supervisor Checklist (sample page 5) is created and utilized by the MOD, in order to systematically direct their initial focus in an effort to be thorough, efficient, and consistent. Often the Checklist is detailed and quite long, and for a new Manager/Supervisor it can be overwhelming and seemingly a bit tedious, as it often requires significant time to review, execute, and complete. But not to worry, much of it will become second nature and far less time consuming as experience builds. Much as we don’t require a full review of a checklist to start and drive our car each day, after repetitive use, we won’t need to execute the Checklist quite so point-by-point each shift. Nonetheless, having and using the Checklist is of paramount importance; both initially, and as a firm foundation to ensure a consistent procedural underpinning and preparation to the shift’s execution; and in a normal Hospitality operation, given the previous points regarding guests and employees (the subjective, unpredictable Human side!), we need to superimpose as much objective procedure and structure as possible to our operations. This creates and provides a systematic approach, which ideally, will allow for the flexibility to deal with and manage the subjective, intangible areas from the humanistic side.
While the Checklist is a necessary tool, it does tend to be a bit mechanical in its focus, i.e., turn on the lights in the main dining room, set the thermostat at 72 degrees, etc. which is why it doesn’t remain an overwhelming task after a few weeks, but it also must be pointed out that it is an objective tool, and doesn’t necessarily approach the subjective aspect of our job and arguably, more importantly: the focus of the leadership skills of overseeing a staff; and guest interactions. Generally speaking, this is where the impact (or lack thereof) of an effective Manager is manifested.
Effective leadership is essential to the productivity of the staff, and certainly to the success of the restaurant, but given the complex nature of human relationships, character, and personality, it is a constant challenge to be consistently successful in this highly subjective area. This also makes it apparent that we handle the objective side of the business: the processes (checklists) policies; and procedures, consistently, and with a high degree of execution as they’re profoundly more predictable as compared to the human element aspects. The checklist is an example that provides a solid operational structure whereas the subjective, human element and leadership builds upon that foundation as it allows for a focus on the performance of your staff and therefore the satisfaction of our guests.
Generally prior to the initial “walk-around”, the Manager Log (common internal communication tool), often now in electronic form, for the passing along of notable issues, whether they be physical issues, i.e., “AC in the front room is now working fine”, to “had a discussion with Jim regarding being on time, he seemed to understand”, must be read, notes taken, and the necessary follow-up needs to be prioritized. It is essential for management continuity that this task be consistently and properly executed since most restaurants are managed in a team environment. Commonly such a Log is departmentalized: Food (good, bad, shortage); Service (compliments, attitudes, slow food/service, etc.); Staff (too many, not enough, 3rd server needs to be 15 minutes earlier, etc.); Large Parties; Maintenance; Supplies (water glasses arrived, broke out one case, 2nd in storage, still need dessert forks); Weather; Business Levels; etc.….This very important task is often the key to a well-managed business. For it enables each member of the team to act as part of the larger team and to be afforded all the information available to them that will aid in decisions, points to consider, and areas of overall concern. This tool, along with a Weekly Manager Meeting, are the two main processes that drive management and form the foundation of consistency and continuity and without them, management often performs in a fragmented, less than effective manner. As an aside, it is also important that manager’s diligently read the Manager’s Log, AND initial that they’ve done so, as this makes it clear that everyone has in fact been provided with important information, but have also actually read it, and hopefully will respond/react accordingly and appropriately. This is a necessary confirmation that leads to efficient, well-informed management teams and is proportionally valuable as the number of managers on the team grows.
Then, with the Manager Checklist in hand, the MOD (Manager-on-Duty) begins making sure the physical property is ready for the day or night, a manager/supervisor should then move on to checking the staffing schedule for the day (and, this is important, for the next several days, as it may be that present staffing levels don’t meet current business levels and therefore adjustments may need to be made, which often require several attempts/days to execute), and this will generally require a look at the current business forecast, along with a comparison to current (micro) trends not in the forecast, notes from previous shifts to that effect, with any possible issues noted (in the Manager’s Log), and if necessary reacted to. Many a shift has gone awry due to overlooking a probable scheduling oversight, that if caught and rectified earlier, would’ve made a substantial difference in the operation of the business! There are innumerable moving parts in a Food and Beverage Operation and it can be easy to get distracted or pulled away for some non-urgent, and perhaps less than important detail, while missing the urgent/important issues, of which staffing should always be a focus.
While conducting the “walk-around, looking for many obvious and not-so-obvious issues, it is important to start greeting incoming staff and noting timeliness, and whether someone is running late, and therefore you need to stop and call them to check if they’re in route or not, and whether you need to quickly adopt some mitigation efforts or not. While greeting staff be sensitive to attitudes, demeanor, uniform cleanliness, excessive jewelry, etc.… Be welcoming to staff in a manner that you will later expect them to demonstrate to your guests. Be happy to see them, and try to personalize your approach as staff generally will perform better for Managers who demonstrate a caring, nurturing attitude towards them, rather than a distant, or indifferent effect. If discipline is needed, do that in private; as we should always offer praise in public.
Soon, you’ll be opening the doors to the public, so our walk-around must be purposefully focused on readiness on all levels: kitchen; bar; front door greeting area; bathrooms; dining room; lighting; music, odors, etc. Now the focus of the Manager/Supervisor shifts to the guests, with attention paid to beverage and food delivery (speed and quality), and also must include the interaction with both guests and staff in the constant effort to determine if guest satisfaction is where it should be, and if not, determine why. This can be a complex issue, and is therefore important that Managers are constantly evaluating systems, human interactions, and overall execution that will benefit the guest and staff experience, for these things go hand-in-hand while observing and mitigating shortcomings. Notations should be made throughout the shift of areas of concern and of positive results as well, which should later be communicated via the Manager’s Log.
Throughout the time of guest service, Managers should be on the floor interacting with both guests and staff, for many of the above-stated reasons. Managers should not be in the office, on the phone conducting administrative tasks, or any other aspect of their multi-level responsibilities. As understandable as it may be to complete all their duties, none of them should be attended to during service, period.
As service and incoming guest traffic begin to wind down, a change in focus tends to occur where the Manager may be concentrating their efforts towards phasing out some unneeded staff, since guest flow is diminishing, and therefore, so too should employees required to service them, and labor hours (a management nemesis!) should be reduced accordingly. This can be a difficult juncture in the shift, as, if you cut staff too soon you risk compromised service levels, if you wait too long to phase out staff, you may spend more in labor than is necessary. This is where the Manager’s Log may come in, insofar as Managers have been communicating in it how previous shifts have been phased, and the success of those actions, or the unfortunate errors of them! Also of note, may be whether the correct amount of staff was properly scheduled, along with whether their individual start times were appropriate or not, as this information too, needs to be communicated to other Managers as well, and if necessary adjustments to the staff schedules should be made accordingly. While phasing out unnecessary staff, the MOD should monitor the phased staff, to make sure they stay focused on finishing their closing duties, or side-work. These duties are ancillary tasks, such as breaking down the Coffee area, refilling the condiments used during the shift, etc.., while also maintaining an eye on service to remaining guests. Too often during this time Managers, and phased staff members, tend to take their focus off of guest service to the detriment of it! The last few tables in a server section, or in the restaurant, deserve just as much of an experience, and have similar expectations of that experience, as the first tables of a shift. Therefore, it’s important to maintain guest and service focus during this transitional time and to resist the tendency towards distractions. There is so much to juggle during any Manager shift, but it’s rarely dull!
As the time of guest service winds down and then ends, the rest of your Manager Agenda is ready for your attention! Prior to the walk around, if nothing else required immediate attention, the many administrative tasks of the Job Description may (will) require attention. Those tasks may include, ordering supplies, performing a line item budget analysis, beginning yet another schedule, following up on maintenance projects, and the list goes on. Often, the walk-around prior to an evening shift doesn’t require as much time, as you’ll generally be following another daypart (lunch) and much of the checklist has been attended to, and therefore, time can be spent accomplishing other various tasks. If an early shift, then the checklist and walk-around may require more time, but often if well organized, a Manager should be able to get in early and jump right into checking items off of their “To-Do” list, before too much starts happening in the restaurant. In either case, this requires Managers to have a well-developed system for getting things done, which takes us to our next category, after reviewing the sample checklist.
SAMPLE - Manager Procedures/Opening Checklist
Introduction: As a manager your job is to make sure all of our systems are operating properly, and that ultimately, our guests receive a quality experience, and to prepare our staff for success. To accomplish this it is necessary that everything required to exceed our guest’s expectations has been addressed.
This list should serve as a guideline to help you identify the areas and issues that will generally require attention from you on a per shift basis. It may not be comprehensive relative to covering every possible situation that may arise, but it should provide a thorough framework with which to approach the task of operating our Restaurant.
- Arrive and read the Managers log. React appropriately to any issues listed, or make any notes that require a response.
- Retrieve the Labor Sheet for the day. Check for staff shift changes and whether staff levels seem appropriate for the expected business. Respond appropriately to any deficiencies you find, or any overstaffing that may have occurred. Review the next three days for any problems/needs. Address them and leave clear notes on status. Communicate status.
- Check on kitchen staff and make sure they perform their Daily Temperature Checklist/Log. When completed, spot check temps for accuracy, then file.
- Walk the property externally, making notes of anything requiring long term discussion, and react immediately to anything requiring immediate attention.
- Walk the property internally utilizing the same methodology. Try to be mindful of such things as streaked windows, cigarette butts, mop strands, heel marks on barstools, etc.…Make notes for follow-up. Then do it.
- Check for any reservations that will require preparation plans. Also make note of any other large parties, banquets, or catering events that would also require extra preparation. Do this for the entire week in order to be aware of anything that may be ahead. Also, check for current promotions we may be running and review with staff.
- Check for interview appointments.
- Check-in with kitchen for any issues, and get the Daily Special to program for the shift.
- Program Daily Special. Check the POS system to verify that it was done properly, i.e. price, forced modifiers, temps, etc…
- Check on deliveries for proper handling, correctness of product, shortages, etc. Discuss any product shortages with kitchen, then list on the 86 board, then call Chef to report the problem. Make sure to communicate these to staff verbally as well, if the shortage will affect the shifts’ service, if not, just note it.
- Draw up sections on the seating charts, following our system.
- Get staff together to discuss the shift’s goals, i.e. cleanliness, table maintenance, full hands in, upselling, closing side-work, current promotions, daily appetizer sales contest, changes in food presentation, or preparation, etc…
- Make sure our overall preparedness is to our standards, i.e., Are specials on the board, sections assigned, trainees notated and assigned a trainer, Music sound levels appropriate, etc.
Learn and Apply the Seven basic management activities of Planning, Organizing, Coordinating, Staffing, Directing, Controlling, and Evaluating throughout the management of the day.
The previous section spoke to the highly variable, multi-task aspect of managing a shift, while also suggesting and integrating the seven basic management activities into a given Manager shift. It is imperative that all managers execute these activities consistently in order to be a successful manager and to operate a smooth, guest-centric business. As illustrated above, there is significant overlap to these seven activities and it can be difficult at times to determine where one starts and the other ends; so let’s take a look at some examples from a manager’s typical day.
A common application of many of these activities in one task is found in staff scheduling. Initially, we often must look to our Guest Forecast, which has been done previous to the schedule, to determine the amount of business we predict, and therefore, the number of employees required to provide proper service to our guests for any given shift. Forecasting is a form of planning, and without it, we would have a difficult time creating a proper schedule, as we wouldn’t have a business volume level (guest count for this purpose) around which to build our schedule.
Next might be the organization of the schedule itself into common FOH job groups, such as servers, bus people, greeters, and bar staff. This generally simplifies the scheduling process considerably, because we don’t have to guess at how many total employees to have on for a particular shift, we instead can use our guest forecast to determine common guest-to-position ratios appropriate to that particular restaurant’s needs, such as: for every 25 guests we need a server, therefore if we have forecast 150 guests, we should schedule 6 servers. And for every 3 servers, we need an accompanying bus person, so we would schedule two bus people, and on from there using the same rationale. In the kitchen, we would utilize the same process, but generally, with larger ratios, i.e., for every 50 guests, we need one line cook. In the case of a guest forecast, we may need to apply another management activity of Evaluating, as we may have a scenario wherein only 125 guests are forecast, so do we schedule 2, or 3 Line Cooks? If we have experienced Line Cooks, we may be able to schedule our two best people, and still provide appropriate speed and quality, but it would probably be a mistake to try this with two inexperienced line cooks, as speed and quality would likely suffer. It’s not just a numbers game; it takes a proper evaluation of skill sets to help determine the right amount of staff and this not-so-subtle error has caused many a poor performing shift!
We’ve used examples of the Schedule for three of the seven, so let’s take a look at the other four, still using the schedule and adding training as another example.
The Coordinating function, relative to Staff Schedule making can be a bit complex, as we need to not only consider an ever-changing guest/business volume forecast; for few restaurants have the luxury of total guest flow consistency around which to essentially duplicate their schedule for every scheduling cycle. In addition to the guest/business volume variable dynamic, we also commonly have a staff availability variable that too, is often very dynamic. Especially more so in the FOH; with a younger employee demographic, often made of students, or people with other jobs, this creates an ever-changing employee availability landscape, requiring a lot of coordinating of all the various individual’s availabilities. To increase the challenge, employee availability may change at various points in time, i.e., when a new school semester comes, so staying on top of all these changes is almost a full-time job in itself. Add in staff that wants more shifts, fewer shifts, have an important family event, or other such special requests and the job is as stated-complex.
A good approach for a Manager who has schedule making responsibilities is to have the Guest Forecast at hand, along with the long term staff availability, which should include their individual, consistent availability (School conflicts, other jobs, etc.), and another folder or clipboard that has the staff’s short term schedule requests, wherein they may request a specific day off for a Doctor’s appointment, or an important family event to attend, for example, which is merely a short term issue. All three of these are generally used to coordinate the Schedule and if consistently updated and used, will allow for a more consistent schedule that meets the staffing needs of the business, and as a significant added bonus; will reduce greatly, the amount of times Managers spend chasing around scheduling issues that are a nightmare for Managers, and seriously diminish the efficiency of the business. Doing schedules right the first time is HIGHLY recommended! However difficult that task may be!
Remember too, the earlier point as well of the “quality” of each staff member and their individual skills and capabilities, which as mentioned previously, is part of the Staffing and Evaluating functions, and adds another layer of detail that requires attention by the schedule making Manager. There’s that complexity again!
The remaining Directing and Controlling functions may best be examined via the lens of training. Many of the other five are also evident throughout the training function as well, so you may see most/all of them indirectly involved as you process this section as well. It’s important to remember that all seven activities overlap throughout most management processes.
When assigning an employee to undergo training, either as a new employee, or one that is moving into a different position, it’s important that a Manager specifically directs “customized” training for these individuals, for one size does not fit all. Certainly, there is boilerplate general information that must be covered in the process, but there is also the need to consider previous experience, or lack thereof, as well as familiarity to the property, menu, cooking style, etc. The trainer is also an important part of this process as they should probe the trainee with questions throughout the process to determine their actual needs and which areas need more attention and which may require less. The Manager must also be aware during the training process of how the individual trainee is responding to the material, process, and systems, in order to further direct the proper resources to a new trainee to achieve the best results from the entire process.
An integral part of any solid training program should require the implementation of the last management principle of Controlling. This, in the example of training an employee, should include both formal and informal forms of testing, or questioning, to determine whether the respective employee is absorbing the information, processes, and systems that they’re required to understand. Formal tests tend to be checking on the objective, quantifiable information they’ve been asked to learn such as table numbers, hours of operations, ingredients in a recipe, etc. Whereas the subjective, qualitative information may be best “tested” via in-person questioning, such as “What do you do if a guest doesn’t like their meal?”, “…describe our atmosphere”, or perhaps most importantly, how committed they may seem to be to the job.
Controlling in this example is the “checking to make sure all systems, people, and processes will most likely produce a skilled, knowledgeable, and contributing member of the staff that will, in turn, improve the quality of the staff overall, and positively impact the guest experience. Training can too often be performed in a generic, superficial, robotic and often assumes too much, or is even glossed over without the Controlling aspect and execution thereof, can be less than totally impactful and effective. Generally speaking, you have one opportunity to get the training right, for virtually no one will repeat the training process. So if training is lacking, the net effect is that you’ve trained someone improperly, which put another way, you’ve actually trained them how to perform their job the wrong way.
It is often said that “You can’t teach experience”, and when considered in the Hospitality Food and Beverage Operations side of our Industry, that is probably a rather axiomatic statement. In other words, this phrase is considered to be quite true. Nonetheless, education on the conceptual and theoretical aspects, with illuminating, insightful examples, should provide an advantage to anyone considering entering the business. This will make the experiential part of the process probably happen faster as that knowledge that is brought into the industry makes the experiential part of the process much more comprehendible. The educational part will support the experiential part, and the combination is arguably considered the best approach to our Industry. Additionally, an educated mind is a more teachable one, even out of a classroom environment, as they tend to learn and process information faster, with more developed logic, rationale, and critical thinking skills, and a more highly developed capability of knowledge application.
All that said, having been educated first (hopefully), On-the-Job (OTJ) training, or even just getting a job in the industry would now be the best way to apply that education and to further learn and apply, first hand, all the concepts and principles previously acquired. Commonly starting at the proverbial bottom is considered the best manner in which to learn, observe, consider, evaluate, and generally absorb the highly variable and dynamic aspect of our Industry.
The bottom is best as it allows one to see virtually every aspect of the most basic functions within a given business; as it should later inform the many higher-level functions and job positions throughout our businesses that one may later occupy, and further provide a depth of knowledge that is foundational to best management practices. Commonly it will ultimately provide a basis for later management and supervisory positions, having experienced and actually worked many of the positions for which one is now trusted to oversee and supervise. It can be quite difficult to supervise an area or job function where we have little or no knowledge or experience.
The roadmap often varies from business to business, but one all too common navigational error is one that is too narrow in its focus, i.e., working only in the FOH (host, bus person, server, bartender, etc.), or only in the BOH (kitchen positions!) To attain most top positions within the Industry a person should gain experience in both these functional areas. Once again, it’s difficult to be effective in upper-level management positions if a person lacks knowledge and experience in either of these areas.
As a matter of fact, most Restaurant Manager Training (MIT) programs require the Manager-in-Training to do exactly as described: work every position within the business/company, often including administrative positions of bookkeeping, accounts payable, and accounting; all for the purpose of adding to the“educational/experiential” background of the manager-to-be.
In a similar fashion, for the Hotel F & B side, a career and experiential path would probably include and involve gaining experience in Room Service and Large Party/Banquets Operations and Sales, in addition to the FOH and BOH positions previously mentioned. In the Hotel side of the industry, the top-most position would generally be the Director of Food and Beverage, but it is also possible to elevate further (outside of F & B) and move into a departmental Manager position or possibly even General Manager and District Manager.
In the Restaurant Industry, common career paths often will mimic the same MIT path, but with more upward aspirational choices that could include Department Head (Service Manager, Bar Manager, Marketing Manager, etc.) and may eventually lead to a General Manager Position of a single restaurant, or a Director of Operations or District Manager, Regional Manager, or even a Vice President position with a larger company that operates several, to many locations. Each company will often have a series of similar positions, but with some variability in the naming of the positions i.e., Service Manager versus Dining Room Manager; whereas in a different company it may be termed Assistant Manager. There is no standard for the naming of the various job positions and their respective titles, much as there are no strict standards for the accompanying Job Description ascribed to each title. Lastly, in the smaller types of operations, it is common for a person to hold more than one title, as they are very often combined, insofar as a manager may be responsible for two and sometimes three areas, such as Service and Marketing Manager, or in many cases, the title may just be Manager, but their respective Job Description may breakout their specific job responsibilities or areas of focus to include; Human Resource Management, Marketing and general Floor Operations (managing floor shifts.) Again, there is no universal application of titles, job descriptions (sample page 15), or duties (sample organization chart page 9), and it is often said that ultimately the most common job description may just be succinctly defined as “whatever it takes!”
Under most circumstances, it is normal to gain experience at several different business types and in any of the many job types as well, while trying to not only gain experience and understanding of those jobs but also of the industry in general. While it’s probably inadvisable to be a “job-jumper” (one that doesn’t maintain steady work over a period of time, with one employer), but it is fairly normal to perform some type of sampling across the Industry in order to observe varying operation types, personnel, systems, and business practices. This is actually encouraged in more private conversations, for most employers don’t want to overtly encourage job movement and turnover, but will admit that for someone pursuing a long-term career, it’s probably suitable and advisable for that person to attempt to gain as much cross-pollinated perspective as possible, in order to potentially gain the broadest possible scope of knowledge and to further see and evaluate not only the good practices but perhaps more importantly, the bad practices. We often, in fact, learn more from seeing inappropriate processes and interactions than merely the same good ones over and over.