Six Things You Should Know About Restaurant Managers
Running a restaurant of any size is a challenge, the bigger the shop the more the headaches, heartaches and unexpected disasters of The Biz will be a normal part of the program. Being at the helm of all this entropy is difficult to say the least. Restaurants aren’t like shoe stores or gas stations where you have a fairly straightforward product and delivery system with not many types and/or numbers of employees. Every day you walk in that front (or back) door can turn into “anything can happen day” before the first customer sits down for that 11:15 lunch and Heaven forbid the shop serves breakfast ‘cuz then you don’t even get a stretch of time in the AM to un-fuck whatever hair-brained situation arose. Putting the people factor on top of everything else adds an epic wild card to the situation as well. Good news for most restaurant managers is people are generally easy to deal with (except in Corona del Mar) and usually don’t go out of their way to act like selfish jerks (also, except in CDM). If you’re wondering what it’s like to do their job and the best way to deal with them, here’s some tips to remember.
When good they are great but when bad they are just awful-
I’ve been around the block and back again in The Biz and I have to say I’ve seen very few mediocre managers. There’s been plenty of great ones and some really horrible ones but not much in between. The stand outs are amazing but when they are bad (Whew!) look out! Good ones? They make everything effortless and drama-free, gliding from one problem to another and solving them with the greatest of ease. That front of house purrs like a well-tuned Ford 350 Cleveland tearing up the blacktop on an open desert highway and great managers know that a kind word to an employee having a really bad day is better than a harsh admonition. They also know that a simple “thank you” goes a long, long way with both customers, employees and vendors.
Bad ones? Well, they are just the worst. Where do I start? Creating drama where there is none (in order to feel important) is just the beginning. Harshly criticizing servers in front of clients, gossiping loudly about private shop business, finger pointing instead of problem-solving, poor people skills, big egos-small skill sets; the list goes on and on. In The Biz temperament is everything and if a manager doesn’t have the right one they are horrible to deal with. Good news is they are pretty easy to spot and avoid.
Horribly overworked and (generally) pathetically underpaid-
Unless they’re high up the food chain with PF Chang’s or El Torito they’re probably not making much money and heaven forbid they are on salary, then said managers are really getting screwed. Even the lowliest of lunch servers get to work their 5 hour shift, leave with their 100 bucks in tips and lay on the beach. Meanwhile, their much-abused manager is stuck back at the shop receiving deliveries, doing payroll or handling one of the thousand other headaches that happen every day. Let’s face it, the poor wretch who runs a shop is at the whim of the restaurant fates and their siren song will cause him/her to wreck their hulls upon the rocky shores of overcommitment every time. But there are some perks; like a comp tab for food/drinks, possibly some basic health benefits and people in The Biz tend to take care of each other so it’s likely they’re gonna get hooked up around town. With few exceptions, though, hour for hour even an average server will earn more than their manager.
They are going to be nice about it but they have a lot to deal with and you are probably the least of their worries-
Okay, customer service is the backbone of the restaurant industry but keep in mind that your need for an itemized reprint of a check from three months ago for your accountant is probably pretty low on their priority list. Aside from just the hustle and bustle of an average day they probably walked into five unexpected disasters that may already be in play or are about to go down. That doesn’t mean you are not important, ‘cuz you are! Just be aware that while that manager is smiling and nodding while discussing whatever your need de jour is they are pretty likely to be a boiling cauldron of foodservice angst underneath that veneer. Which bring us to our next topic.
It’s a significant possibility they have a prescription drug problem-
Xanax is the new Pop Rocks and some people in The Biz chew them like Pez candies. Industry types are oftentimes on edge, hung over or just plain ready to party; maybe all three at once. If you are wondering why that manager at some random shop never returned your call about a reservation just keep in mind that they might not have even been aware they were at work when you spoke to them on the phone, much less remembered what day you wanted to come in for your kid’s big birthday party. Good managers either keep it low key or can function just fine right after that three-day Palm Springs booze and cocaine bender. Bad ones? They’re the ones that look like something out of Dawn of the Dead at the host stand, nursing a Bloody Mary and chewing on that pot dispensary Twinkie when you come in and ask for a table.
They might be doing this because they can’t do anything else (or don’t want to)-
Good managers are the latter of the above. Maybe they have a lot of outside experience or just plain ‘ol brains and (like me) detest the 9 to 5 cubicle-dweller lifestyle. The Biz has it’s foibles but for independent souls it’s a great way to make a living while avoiding the societal pitfalls that can turn your life in a long, bleak, grey non-stop march to your end days. Bad managers are trapped though, constantly reminded that this is their lot and it shows. Doing a job because you want to is the ideal and for some people it just doesn’t work out that way. Sadly, they oftentimes take it out on others around them.
They couldn’t cut it as a server so they made them management-
This sounds like a personal dig but it’s not. Some people are just nice to be around and although not everyone is cut out to wait tables or tend bar oftentimes those same ones turn out to be very effective behind the scenes. If someone doesn’t have the multitasking skills to work the floor but love what they do, well, it’s a no-brainer for me. Show them how to run the books, schedule employees, handle POS and off they go! Smart, motivated, easy to deal with and possessing good chaos management skills are the most important qualities a restaurant manager can have, the nuts and bolts of the job are the easy part. Seriously, we’re not building satellites in the clean room at Lockheed Martin here.
Forewarned is forearmed they say so consider yourself prepared the next time you interact with someone running a shop. In fact, query up front “Do you have a prescription drug problem?”. Tell ‘em I said to ask.