Ask anyone who runs a restaurant and you’ll find there is a hell of a lot to do. As managers get promoted it becomes easy to take on the many responsibilities of the business. P&Ls are delicate things and for most it makes sense to take on the responsibility of all the major tasks in the business to ensure the restaurant turns a healthy profit.
In theory, this seems like a good idea, but with so much focus on all the daily and weekly tasks we can lose touch with the most important people in our business - our employees. Your teams interact with many more of your guests than you do. If you can’t keep them motivated and happy, they’ll have very little inclination to treat your guests with empathy and kindness. We’ve all worked with GMs who spend a lot of their time in the office - this never goes down well with team members. In fact it’s one of the quickest ways to create cynical, lacklustre waiters.
To be effective leaders we need to be able to build rapport and trust with our management teams and our front line employees. If we’re spending too much time focusing on the admin, it’s too easy for those relationships to slide. As leaders, our job is to manage the emotional state of those we lead, to keep them happy and motivated so they can deliver a brilliant guest experience.
Obviously we can’t just spend all our time on the floor, motivating our teams and neglecting the daily running of the business. But there is a way we can combine the two.
Most people are happy if they feel like they are moving forward, learning and developing. We want to create an atmosphere of constant learning and progression. Through coaching and developing our teams we can actually reduce our workload whilst at the same time building trust and rapport. Here’s how.
If you take all the tasks that you, as GM, carry out weekly and then write them out into a list of blocks like below.
Although the tasks might vary, you’ll notice that the most junior managers always have the least ‘office’ work to do and therefore spend most of their time ‘managing’ shifts and ‘managing’ the team. By contrast, the most experienced person in the business spends the least amount of time ‘managing’ the people in the business. To us that makes no sense. We need to free up the most experienced person to truly lead the business and the people in it.
The goal is for the GM to delegate 85-95% of their workload so they can focus on their teams and guests. This doesn’t mean we are no longer responsible for those tasks; of course, the buck always stops with us. But we need to coach and develop the managers below us to be able to do those tasks in order to free up our time to focus on our guests and employee wellbeing. We provide support all the way and then simply review and check at the end. The key to making this work is to train the person well enough to do the task as well as (or better) than you. Achieving this takes a bit of planning and time - but trust me it’ll be worth it in the end.
Let’s take one of our tasks as GM we want to delegate to our AGM. Perhaps it’s Monday morning admin. How long (be honest with yourself) is it going to take me to train my AGM to carry out this task perfectly. Let’s say 6 hours. I’m going to spread this time over 3 weeks. Next I’m going to schedule two one hour training sessions over three weeks with my AGM. I’m going to Timeblock this in our diaries. Timeblocking is simply putting time in your diary where nothing interrupts you. You must protect that time so your sole focus is on training your AGM. Too often training in restaurants is haphazard as there is always so much going on and the task never gets taught properly which leads to mistakes - the whole thing becomes a frustrating waste of time.
During these one hour sessions your task is not simply to teach the AGM how to do Monday morning admin; it’s equally important to build trust and rapport. This is quality one-on-one time that is such a rarity in our industry. Be kind, support them, allow them to make mistakes and learn. Then by the end of the six sessions, you simply have to review and check that they are doing the task well. You now have a stronger relationship with your AGM and one less task to do.
Your AGM can then do exactly the same with the manager below them. What we end up with is a management team that are constantly learning, developing and improving and a GM who has the time and headspace to focus on the most important aspect of the business - it’s people.
If we keep this style of learning and delegation going, we’ll end up at a point where we have managers who are trained and ready for promotion or to step up if someone else leaves. What we want to end up with is a GM who is still ultimately responsible for the all administration of the business but they are simply reviewing, guiding and checking as opposed to doing. There’s a real joy to be found in developing those below you. Done well, you’ll have more time, less stress and more headspace to focus on the most important aspect of the business, its people.