Successful owners have to wear many hats when it comes to creating a sustainable business, and restaurant owners often feel compelled to wear their manager and owner hats at the same time while managing a restaurant. And with good reason, for the most part.
Restaurants have tight profit margins — with less room for frills than most small businesses. But if you’ve been one of those owners for years (or even decades), it can be hard to change out of that routine, even if you have achieved significant success. If you want to start moving towards retirement (or you’re trying to expand to more locations can’t be in two places at once!), the time will come when you need to hire a separate person for managing a restaurant.
Hiring a manager to start taking over your daily responsibilities of managing a restaurant can be extremely helpful when you want to slowly step away from the business you’ve created — while still making sure it stays on its feet. Any successful business owner deserves to enjoy leisure and continued success. It’s completely possible to have the best of both worlds, as long as you plan accordingly.
It starts in the interview process. In seeking out the right person for the job, you should be able to clearly imagine them holding the reins of the business. Reach out to former employers, as well as any references they give during the interview, and ask about their work ethic, people skills, leadership skills, and organization. If they are experienced, passionate, good at supervising, open to learning from you, and able to hire and train staff well, you can be confident that they’ll do the job as needed. Make sure you get a thorough sense of what they see as good service within a restaurant. And they need to understand clearly what their duties will be and what your role will be as their superior.
Hiring from Within Your Ranks
Sometimes, it’s wiser to start by looking at who you already have working for you. There’s already a culture in the restaurant industry for salaried restaurant employees to start as hourly restaurant workers and work their way up – someone in your current hourly staff is probably interested in transitioning to a leadership position.
Do you see potential? Is there someone reliable, passionate, trustworthy who is already working in the restaurant that you can imagine fitting into the manager role? Pulling from within house means having someone managing a restaurant who already knows the business, knows you, and knows how to work with you. And hiring from within also has another clear benefit: other employees will likely already be comfortable with your choice and be buoyed by seeing ownership visibly rewarding success.
Handing Over the Reins … Gradually
It can be difficult for longtime owners to let go of day-to-day responsibilities of managing a restaurant. After all, when you know all the ins and outs of your business, highly motivated people tend to assume it’ll just be easier for you to do it all yourself. But part of the process of business growth is learning how to delegate tasks a little at a time to other competent employees. If you’ve hired smart and found yourself a good manager, they can eventually fill that daily role within the front-of-the-house and the kitchen alike while you keep your fingers on the pulse on the business as a whole. You’ll be able to devote more time to the larger management of the enterprise — and to your interests outside the business.
Some of the main tasks your manager should be taking over for you include:
- Opening and closing procedures
- Overall daily supervision
- Inventory tracking
- Cash handling (stocking/counting out the cash register, managing which employees are on them at what time, training your staff on those procedures)
- Labor and wage management
Delegating these duties over to your manager gradually can be helpful for both of you. It helps a manager brand new to the business learn how your operation is run. It helps a manager promoted from inside the business get used to their new position among your other employees. And it helps you get used to the idea that someone else can handle it all. As a plus, a gradual handing over of the reins means your current employees won’t have to worry about a drastic overnight upheaval of their work flow.
What You Shouldn’t Give Up
All that being said, you are still the owner. As such, there are always important roles for you to play within your company. Understanding what those roles are is just as crucial as knowing which roles you’re delegating out to your manager.
For instance, you should never relinquish cash flow. Even as a hands-off owner, so much of your responsibility will involve PNL (profit and loss) and the larger finances of the business. Still, your manager should be aware and on the same page with you regarding cash flow, the business plan, and reconciling it all in your current system.
Another aspect of the business you should still handle is the marketing. This is your brand and you still get to choose how that brand is marketed to the community. However, your manager should be instrumental in physically fulfilling the marketing of the business, including coming up with new promotional ideas. Keep control of your image by requiring a manager to get your sign off on important decisions like marketing or even vendor changes. Let your manager plan out the change, and then you can approve, veto, or adjust the plan. That’s a good way to think of your relationship as manager and owner: they’re the planner and you become the approver.
All in the Details
Above all, make sure your expectations for any new manager are clear. Easing them into tasks is great as long as everyone is on the same page regarding responsibilities. Allow your manager to fulfill the role you’ve assigned to them and set goalposts for when more responsibilities will be added (provided they’re doing their current work well).
Make sure to schedule check-ins for the two of you to assess progress, as you would any employee. What are the expectations for what they bring to those meetings to show that everything is running smoothly on their watch? The hope is, as you progress, you can step away for more than just a day or a week and truly get to enjoy the fruits of your lifelong labor.
Need more insight into staffing your restaurant successfully? We have a four-part guide: