How to Be a Successful Restaurant General Manager

Successful restaurant general managers combine management skill and culinary knowledge.
Successful restaurant general managers combine management skill and culinary knowledge. (Image: Jupiterimages/ Images)

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a division of the U.S. Department of Labor, the market for restaurant managers is expected to grow 5 percent between 2008 and 2018, which is slower than the average for other occupations. The number of eating and drinking establishments is expected to decline over this period, so understanding the characteristics that restaurants look for in a successful general manager can help you set yourself apart from other general managers.

Get an education. With the market for restaurant managers declining, restaurants will have their choice from an increasing pool of general manager job candidates. Those with a college degree may be more likely to win a restaurant manager position. Look into local business schools that offer a restaurant management of hospitality business program. At the very least, take a management class at a local or online business school or community college.

Gain restaurant experience. To be a successful restaurant general manager, you need to understand the intricacies of the restaurant business, and the only way to do this is to experience it first-hand. Successfully managing a restaurant means understanding how a restaurant kitchen works, the purchasing and inventory process and how to handle employee issues. Some restaurant general managers start by working as a water, waitress, cook or bartender. Regardless of the path you choose, gain experience by working in a restaurant.

Solicit feedback from employees. As a general manager, you are a leader and supervisor of employees. This means you need to be able to coach, reward and discipline employees in a responsible and effective matter. One of the best ways to do this and set yourself up for future success is communicating with your employees. Have "one-on-one" meetings with every employee once per week. Take 5 or 10 minutes to ask each employee how he is doing, what challenges he faces and what you can do to help make his job better.

Be decisive. Often general managers are faced with tough decisions that require you to think on your feet. In these cases, it's important to communicate openly with the restaurant owners and take timely, decisive actions. Restaurant managers who are indecisive often lack the confidence and efficiency needed to manage a restaurant. For example, if you notice during inventory tracking that one of your vendors has raised its prices without telling you, immediately contact the restaurant owner and offer a suggestion for another vendor. Proactive managers who help increase the efficiency of a business are the ones who succeed more often than not.

Tips & Warnings

  • When looking for a new job as a restaurant manager or a promotion at your current restaurant, highlight specific instances in which you established relationships with vendors, developed marketing strategies that led to increased business or reduced costs at a restaurant that employed you.
  • Managing a restaurant is not a 9 to 5 job. Anticipate working 50 to 60 hours or more each week.

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