Restaurant Management Skills Every GM Should Hone

Jessica Elliott

Jessica couples her 24 years of restaurant and hospitality industry experience with meticulous research to deliver insight into technology, operations, and marketing topics. Her optimized copy helps companies engage their audience while strengthening their communication with clients, employees, and management.

Does your general manager show up-to-date restaurant management skills? Foodservice supervisors are masters of customer service. But, effective GMs display and develop expertise in many areas. 

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for food service managers is 11% growth. There’s a need for managers that outpaces the average growth rate for other jobs, which holds steady at 5%.

Finding a restaurant manager is tough. And hiring a general manager is even harder. A GM possesses talents and competencies honed from years on the job. Discover the restaurant management skills that your GM needs in order to lead a thriving business with happy customers and employees. 

General Manager of a restaurant efficiently managing all bookings

Restaurant Management Skills: Leadership

A natural leader gets people to do their jobs without barking out orders. Lead by example, and others will follow. Strong leaders: 

  • Excel in communication.
  • Display interpersonal skills.
  • Work side-by-side with staff, not from an office.
  • Think and act fast to resolve issues.

Many local colleges offer classes or certifications for supervisors. These courses help foodservice managers improve their leadership chops.

1. Communication is a two-way street

Your GM is the ultimate communicator. They interact with everyone in and outside of your restaurant. GMs form relationships and work as a go-between. For instance, managers:

  • Convey the restaurant owner’s concerns to staff and management teams.
  • Keep the front of the house (FOH) and back of the house (BOH) crews in sync.
  • Connect on a personal level with guests and potential customers. 
  • Lead staff meetings that respect everyone’s time.

The use of clear words and instructions, even when under extreme pressure, is a huge strength. But, GMs also use active listening in all interactions.

Wendy’s top general manager, Carteina Riddick, tells Nation’s Restaurant News, “I set very clear expectations with my managers and team members, and I consistently check-in with them to make sure the restaurant is running smoothly and that they have what they need to do their jobs well.” 

2. Understand and put in place training and coaching programs

A crucial restaurant management skill is knowing how to train staff. Your team has a short attention span. Plus, you’ll have many first-time employees and those with various abilities. Coming up with new ways to engage a team using mobile or face-to-face training is important. 

To tackle these needs, your GM designs your training program for inclusivity. They ensure training meets regulations and offers support to all team members. 

3. Be a problem-solving guru 

Ultimately, your GM is a problem solver. They come up with solutions on the fly. Even the most well-planned event can go awry due to something out of your control. Knowing how to adjust and handle that situation is what makes an okay manager great. Problem-solving skills involve: 

  • Logical thinking like comparing techniques or evaluating options for the best resolution. 
  • Creative thinking like brainstorming solutions with the products before you.

4. Know when to hire and fire 

Some mistakes are just that, errors. Others are a sign of deeper issues. If left unchecked, a mistake may result in a serious problem for your restaurant. Knowing when to fire an employee is as important as hiring the right people. 

Your GM should feel empowered to make decisions that are in the best interest of your restaurant. To do this, they need a good grasp of employment and business laws. 

Restaurant management skills: Technology

Technology encompasses everything we do. So, it’s necessary for general managers to feel comfortable using digital devices and services. Encourage this strength by supporting efforts to learn and grow. For instance, equipment and software suppliers provide online tutorials and training guides.

5. Show digital-savvy talent

Restaurants aren’t getting less technical. In years to come, you may use a variety of tools to assist staff and customers. Examples of current and upcoming technologies include: 

Encourage your GM to overcome any hesitation about technology. Or hire a manager who shows expertise in this area. Managers must embrace, use, teach, and fix various online services and hardware.

6. Embrace social media 

Social media management is a job on its own. But, your GM should know how to monitor and respond to social messages. Even if they don’t do the brunt of the work themselves, they’ll need to oversee some parts of it. 

Now, some GMs may not consider social media as a must-have restaurant management skill. However, customer service extends beyond your physical space. Successful management teams understand the impact of social media on customer experience.

Chef discussing menu with the restaurant general manager

Restaurant management skills: General operations

From fixing the ice machine to managing inventory, a GM covers a lot of ground. Having a diverse set of restaurant management skills and experience separates a GM from other managers. Not every GM is a math whiz or even mechanically-inclined. But, it’s crucial to increase their expertise in these areas. 

7. Know how the equipment works and how to troubleshoot problems

No, your GM doesn’t need to be a plumber. But, they need to know how to shut off the water or clean an ice machine. They should be able to give staff instructions or handle the job themselves in an emergency. 

Local repair workers often share a few trade secrets with a willing manager. Encourage your GMs to get comfortable with all types of equipment in your restaurant with hands-on experience.

8. Understand the basics of restaurant marketing. 

Don’t expect your GM to handle your marketing strategy. But, they should understand how it works, how to implement it, and how to make it successful. To this end, your general manager also notices and reports on any issues with a marketing strategy. For instance:

  • Catch and point out unclear messaging on a coupon or advertisement.
  • Track and run reports on campaigns.
  • Give insights on what’s working or what needs help.

Your GM works with your marketing and customer support teams. Cross-team support delivers a cohesive experience across all platforms.

9. Demonstrate excellent math skills 

Your GM needs more than a basic grasp of math. Even with mini-computers (cell phones), thinking on your feet is essential. 

Inevitably, you’ll get a customer who wants to exchange a random food item for another. Your GM has seconds to remember the cost of both foods and calculate the difference. A good memory combined with great math skills helps your bottom line and improves customer satisfaction.

10. Learns and obeys all safety and health codes 

Your GM ensures staff and customers enjoy a safe environment. They show comprehensive knowledge of codes and regulations. Competence in this area includes:

  • Understanding current health, fire, and safety regulations.
  • Awareness of recent changes to guidelines.
  • Participating in regular training like HACCP.
  • Ability to notice and act on code-related issues.

Restaurant management skills for exceptional GMs

Your general manager has a lot going on. Being able to track everything and convey that information to you is vital. Each one of the following restaurant management skills improves your operations on every level.

11. Focus on urgent versus important tasks 

The bottom line is that no general managers have spare time. Most already use time management skills. Instead, it’s about making the best choices that benefit your restaurant, staff, and customers. 

According to Nation’s Restaurant News, “Time management is a payphone skill in a smartphone world. Learn how to assess options and then prioritize action instead.” 

12. Maintain constant awareness 

General awareness is a huge strength for savvy managers. Noticing a struggling ice machine or a personality clash in the kitchen prevents surprises. Outstanding managers keep an eye on every part of the restaurant, such as: 

  • The flow of people through your doors
  • Weather conditions that affect customers and staff
  • Online and telephone orders
  • Personal problems with crew members

This awareness helps GMs catch an unruly customer before they bother another table. It also allows managers to assist overwhelmed employees or jump in the kitchen as needed. 

13. Have advanced planning capabilities 

GMs plan for guests, schedules, and even weather. They adjust the schedule for high-volume times or to account for large reservations. Your GM knows when to order extra supplies or request shift coverage. Looking ahead allows your general manager to be proactive, not reactive.

15. Customer service 

The top skill of every restaurant GM is customer service. Customer satisfaction should drive everything they do. From training to inventory control, each aspect affects your restaurant guests. Avoid bad service by selecting a manager who considers customer experience in their decision-making process. 

Resources for learning restaurant management skills

Exceptional GMs often spend years in the industry. Experience combined with natural talents results in a balanced leader. Help your general manager hone their restaurant management skills with these resources:

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