Every restaurant has its own hierarchy, but in many places, a shift leader's status lies somewhere between the servers and cooks and the restaurant management team. Shift leaders might not have "manager" in their title, but they'll often perform the duties of a manager when the manager isn't working or when she's busy doing other tasks.
As a general rule, the shift leader's responsibility is to ensure the smooth operation of the restaurant, and to help other members of the team do their jobs in an efficient manner. That might include lending a hand in the kitchen during a busy time or busing tables that need clearing. The job can also include maintaining an ideal number of staff on a given shift, and "cutting" employees when the restaurant dies down at the end of the day. The shift manager might clock employees in or out, distribute a cashier's till money or help monitor inventory. At the end of the day, the shift manager may be responsible for creating a shift report that details the day's activities or he may be responsible for depositing the day's earnings.
To be a successful shift leader, you'll need a mix of customer service and management skills. You may need computer skills to handle payroll, inventory and sales. Likewise, shift leaders may need math skills to count the daily sales and monitor inventory. You'll also need "people" skills to work successfully with the rest of the team and delegate tasks appropriately. Problem-solving skills and an ability to work under pressure will come in handy to tackle the last-minute issues that arise with customers or staff. Good listening and speaking skills will help you communicate with customers and staff. Some servers, bartenders or chefs act as shift leader while performing their regular duties, meaning the job can require skills in multitasking.
Getting the Job
Shift leaders often work their way up from entry-level jobs in the restaurant, such as server, bartender or cook. If you perform those jobs well and demonstrate your knowledge of the restaurant and ability to work responsibly, a manager might promote you to shift leader. If you have extensive experience at other restaurants, you might also apply for a shift leader job.
Getting hired as a shift leader might require you to be at least the legal drinking age, have at least a high school diploma, and be able to work longer hours than the standard employee works. Having some college or a college degree can also help in this position, as that education may have provided you with training in leadership, finance and communication.
While you'll be in a higher-level job within the restaurant, don't expect an exorbitant salary. According to the jobs site Indeed, restaurant shift leaders earned an average of $21,000 per year as of 2015 -- though some of those jobs may include part-time employment, and many will be paid hourly instead of a salary. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, food service managers earned a median annual salary of $48,560 as of May 2014 -- though that includes full-time managers and general managers, who tend to earn more than other staff members.
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