3 Restaurant GMs Share the Biggest Mistakes They’ve Made — So You Don’t

Jessica Elliott

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.

How much will your mistake cost your restaurant? From inventory errors to staff turnover, one blunder can snowball into a significant problem. The best way to avoid mishaps is to combine awareness and preventative measures to deter manager mistakes. However, there’s something to be said about learning how to turn a mistake into a positive event.

Recently a steakhouse made headlines after the manager gave guests a bottle of wine valued at over $5000 instead of the $290 bottle requested. The restaurant owner’s response on Twitter turned the situation into a positive event. The Washington Post followed up with Hawksmoor Manchester co-owner Will Beckett,

“When they told me about it, I thought, oooh that is an expensive mistake. At the same time, I thought it’s the same kind of I’m-not-concentrating thing I would do. It’s just an unfortunate human error.” 

Learn how two restaurant general managers handled their biggest mistakes so you can avoid these three errors in your dining establishment. 

Manager discussing a mistake with the chef

Allowing a laser focus to get in the way of relationship building.

Every restaurant struggles with high employee turnover. Running a tight ship is essential. But, it’s also important to consider how your relationship with employees impacts your restaurant culture. 

According to Paul Nink, former general manager, the importance of meeting store goals often meant he took a hard-line authoritative approach. He says that at the time, “I didn’t let myself get attached to my employees. I always thought that it would take my edge and sense of urgency away if I started to care.” 

However, after years of management, he found that it was possible to run a restaurant and still show authentic concern for staff both inside and outside of the restaurant. Looking back, Nink says, “I lost focus on the important part: The people and lifelong friends you can gain by letting them know you as a person and not only as an authority figure.” 

Not planning early enough in your business.

When you’re caught up in the moment with long days and nights of work, it’s easy to lose track of how strategizing for the future helps you. By continually reviewing your workflows, customer feedback, and systems, you can grow your restaurant with fewer mistakes. 

Fred Gordon, former GM turned restaurant consultant, says, “There are so many moving parts in the restaurant industry that a lack of planning ends up costing you much more in the future.” Gordon recommends getting organized early using transparent systems for managing costs, staff, and growth. He mentions that “the better you’re organized in your restaurant, the more successful you’ll become.”

Not having a clear contingency strategy for problems.

Both GMs hint at the idea of thinking ahead to address problems at every level. A lack of a tested process leaves room for human error while also causing problems with accountability. 

In Restaurant Hospitality, Tammy Perkins, GM at Calhoun’s says, “I usually approach a problem with what can I do to make this better, but I have never been equipped with the forethought that things could go wrong. I need to be ready for that.” 

Instead of waiting for a problem, use data from staff meetings and customer reviews to predict a variety of issues. Then develop a plan, including mini scripts that staff can use when faced with a customer complaint. 

Managing a restaurant isn’t a simple process. However, by tackling issues head-on and providing your crew with the support they need, you’ll be able to sidestep some major complications. Avoid mistakes by planning for emergencies and growth while developing a culture built on authentic relationships.

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