An Insider’s Guide to Restaurant Management

An Insider’s Guide to Restaurant Management

Portrait of Alan Chan's Author
Portrait of Alan Chan's Author

Alan Chan

January 4, 2024

1/4/24

Jan 4, 2024

1/4/24

13 min read

Image of a man participating in a group chat
Image of a man participating in a group chat
Image of a man participating in a group chat
Image of a man participating in a group chat

Managing a restaurant is often as challenging as it is rewarding. Balancing the buzz of busy service, coordinating a diverse team, satisfying your diners, and adapting to the latest culinary trends are just a few of a restaurant manager’s daily goals.

Whether you’re at the helm of a cozy café or a sprawling eatery, our guide is designed to ease your journey into restaurant management. From top tips for success and common mistakes to avoid finding a good digital management solution, we’ve got you covered.

Top 10 tips for restaurant management

What can you do to excel as a restaurant manager beyond daily operations and customer service basics? Here are 10 expert tips, broken down into categories, to help you fine-tune your craft and drive better results.

Managing employees

Your approach as a leader determines the tone and culture of your restaurant and team. So, aim to:

1. Lead by example

Set the standard for your team. Your work ethic, attitude, and dedication directly influence your staff’s performance. So, show them the excellence you expect instead of simply telling them.

For example, if you want your staff to value timeliness, always be punctual yourself. Meticulously adhere to food safety standards to instill a culture of thoroughness and responsibility in the kitchen. And if you want your staff to display professionalism the moment they walk through the door, make sure you do the same.

2. Prioritize open and effective communication

It’s important to make sure communication flows both ways between you and your employees. After all, your employees are the frontline of your daily operations and customer interactions.

Good communication can also help your restaurant team be more successful. In fact, 72% of leaders say effective communication has increased productivity within their companies, and 60% say it’s increased employee confidence.

Foster a work environment in which your staff are comfortable sharing their ideas and concerns. Regular meetings and an open-door policy can encourage this dialogue, leading to a more cohesive and aligned team. For instance, you can start by regularly asking for your team’s input on menu items or operational improvements.

Group chat tools are especially beneficial when managing a team spread across various shifts, as they help maintain a consistent flow of information and keep everyone in the loop regarding daily specials, menu changes, and operational updates.


Image of a man participating in a group chat


3. Establish fair and consistent scheduling practices

Balance the needs of your restaurant with those of your employees. Fair scheduling not only improves staff morale but also helps ensure your restaurant is optimally staffed during peak times. Using scheduling tools can help make the scheduling process more transparent and accessible for all team members.

Moreover, Lark’s shift management tool keeps employees on track and proactively provides them with reminders about their upcoming shifts. This feature also eases payroll management, as it helps you accurately track the working hours of your hourly employees.


Lark's shift management tool


Attracting customers

It takes more than good food to attract and retain customers. Here’s how you can help your restaurant become a hit:

4. Create a unique dining experience

Dining out means different things for different people. Some may be looking to unwind and socialize after a long day, while others would like to take their taste buds on a wild culinary adventure. But no matter what, they want something special. Otherwise, what reason do they have to dine at your restaurant?

Creating a unique dining experience could mean using a themed décor that transports your customers to different places or a chef’s table where guests can watch their meals be prepared. Thoughtful, creative touches like this not only differentiate your restaurant from the competition but also create buzz and encourage repeat visits.

Understanding your customers’ preferences can help you provide a top-notch experience. Regular surveys can provide insights into what your diners enjoy and what they’re looking for in the dining experience.

With a tool like Lark Base, you can easily create and distribute surveys to gather customer feedback. You can then use this data to tailor your offerings to your customers’ tastes and preferences.

5. Implement a customer loyalty program

Implementing a customer loyalty program is an excellent way to make your regulars feel valued. And it’s effective, too — 57% of customers say they’d spend more at a restaurant that offers a loyalty program.

You could start with simple discounts, exclusive event invitations, or special previews. Consider a rewards system where frequent diners accumulate points for perks like priority seating or complimentary dishes.

6. Offer seasonal or specialty menus

Special dishes that change with the seasons not only attract food enthusiasts but also demonstrate your commitment to quality and sustainability.

Menus that feature seasonal ingredients keep your offerings exciting, giving customers a reason to return. They’re also a great way to foster relationships with local farmers and suppliers, giving you access to the freshest ingredients.

This is a strategy that celebrates culinary innovation and appeals to diners who will pay more for farm-to-table meals.

Marketing

Highlight your restaurant’s unique qualities by leveraging both online and offline restaurant marketing strategies. Here’s how you can do this:

7. Create targeted social media campaigns

While going viral may not be your primary goal, leveraging social media can help you connect with your customers and build a loyal customer base.

Effective marketing strategies include using trending hashtags to increase visibility, collaborating with influencers or local food bloggers to extend reach, and running contests or giveaways to encourage user-generated content. For example, Chipotle’s #GuacDance challenge on TikTok led to the brand’s highest-ever guacamole sales in a single day, with more than 802,000 servings being sold.

You can capitalize on similar opportunities with Lark by integrating it with TikTok to monitor your account and campaign performance as well as manage and respond to comments efficiently. Consistently posting high-quality, engaging content and promptly responding to comments will enhance your online engagement, strengthening your brand’s image.

8. Host community events and collaborations

Make your restaurant a local hotspot by organizing events and teaming up with other nearby businesses. Try joining a food festival, hosting live music nights, or holding an art show with local talent.


Image of an art show with many attendees

Image Source


You’ll also strengthen your ties with the community in this process. Positioning your restaurant as an active participant in the local scene will help you draw in a variety of customers and show support for what your neighborhood has to offer.

Using technology

Upgrade your restaurant operations and customer experience by integrating technology into your daily workflow.

9. Integrate a mobile ordering app

Adopt an intuitive and efficient ordering app to cater to the lifestyle of modern consumers and make it easier for them to engage with your restaurant. This technology not only meets customer expectations for quick and convenient service but also enables higher order accuracy and faster service.

Your customers and staff can enjoy a more seamless dining experience with easy menu access, pre-ordering capabilities, and fast payment.

10. Streamline operations with productivity apps

Enhance your team’s efficiency and coordination with productivity apps that help centralize resources, coordinate schedules, and facilitate clear communication. From front-of-house operations to kitchen workflows, these tools can streamline task management and automate the grunt work. This not only saves time but also reduces the chances of errors, allowing your team to focus on delivering exceptional customer service.

For example, Zero&, a tea and boba brand, uses Lark to streamline its operations across 16 stores in the U.S. By using the super app for onboarding its front-of-house employees and expanding new storefronts, Zero& has saved significant time in its daily operations.

Lark has also enhanced communication among Zero&’s 300+ employees through specific group chats. These chats enable staff to send updates, address challenges, place urgent orders for ingredients, and stay updated on major company-wide announcements.

5 mistakes to avoid in restaurant management

Here are five critical errors that restaurant managers often make — and how to steer clear of them:

1. Treating employees harshly

Under the high-pressure environment of a restaurant, mistakes are bound to happen. However, how you deal with these slip-ups will dictate your team’s overall dynamic and productivity.

Overly harsh punishment can damage morale and create a toxic workplace where employees feel undervalued and fearful. For example, singling out a worker or punishing one person for another’s mistake undermines trust and teamwork, which can lead to a decline in staff engagement and efficiency.

When accidents happen, address them as a team — focusing on solutions and learning opportunities rather than individual blame. Establishing a constructive feedback loop and problem-solving approach helps build a resilient and supportive work culture.

2. Overlooking customer feedback

Ignoring customer feedback is one of the worst mistakes made in restaurant management, as 98% of consumers rely on online reviews to guide their purchasing decisions for local businesses. While the customer isn’t necessarily always “right,” as the saying goes, if you notice many of them are voicing the same concerns, that’s a sign that something needs your attention.


Image of a restaurant worker receiving feedback from customers

Image Source


Overlooking this feedback means you’re ignoring a direct line to understanding your guests’ needs and preferences. This leads to missed opportunities for improvement and can negatively impact your reputation and growth potential.

Actively seeking and addressing customer feedback, both positive and negative, shows your commitment to excellence and your willingness to learn and adapt.

Respond to those one-star reviews just as often as the restaurant’s five-star reviews. And when you spot a trending problem, see what you can do to fix it, whether it’s a menu item people aren’t happy with or a specific aspect of your restaurant’s service.

3. Failing to adapt to market changes

Trends in dining and customer preferences are constantly changing.

A few years ago, sustainable dining and ghost kitchens weren’t even on the radar. Now, they’re major movements in the restaurant industry.

Forty-three percent of restaurant businesses are currently planning a different marketing approach to appeal to Gen Z. Restaurants that don’t stay current risk becoming outdated and losing relevance.

However, this doesn’t mean you need to change your restaurant every time a new trend comes up. Instead, it means adapting elements of these trends to stay fresh and relevant.

A willingness to update your menu, marketing strategies, and technologies when necessary is key to long-term success in the restaurant business.

4. Neglecting regular staff training

Your staff is the first point of contact your customers have with your restaurant. As such, not properly training them can lead to poor customer experiences, operational inefficiencies, and potentially dangerous situations.

Imagine an untrained staff member struggling to explain menu items to customers and failing to provide crucial allergen information. This scenario can have serious consequences.

Both new and seasoned staff need to be updated on best practices, customer service skills, and emergency protocols. Regular training teaches your team to handle tough situations, such as customer complaints or unexpected rushes, and it also helps ensure compliance with health and safety regulations.

Creating an ongoing learning culture will help you not only improve your service quality but also build a more confident and competent team.

5. Poor financial management and budgeting practices

Poor financial management and budgeting can have disastrous outcomes, from low profit margins to complete operational failure.

Oversights in ordering from vendors, for instance, can lead to overspending or inventory shortages. Mismanaged finances can compromise the quality of ingredients or delay payroll. And ineffectively managing labor costs can quickly escalate expenses, impacting overall profitability.

Efficient budgeting and accounting will help you maintain a healthy balance between expenditures and income. A good way to keep your restaurant finances in check is to establish clear financial controls and conduct regular budget reviews.

Is there a good SaaS restaurant management solution?

Finding an effective SaaS solution for restaurant management is like giving your chef the finest knife in the world. It transforms your restaurant’s operations by streamlining day-to-day tasks and improving overall efficiency and customer service.

Lark stands out in this domain, integrating group chat, operational analytics, attendance tracking, schedule management, and on-demand training into one super app.

Our versatile workplace builder can be tailored to the food and beverage sector, making it easy to track restaurant profit margins, manage inventory, and automate other crucial operational processes.

You can even customize approval process designs and speed up decision-making. For instance, the app allows you to quickly approve vendor payments or menu changes from any device.


Image of a person monitoring the status of a purchase


Shift management also becomes a breeze with Lark’s integrated calendar, which provides clear visibility into team members’ schedules and availability. Our wide range of ready-made and customizable restaurant templates offer a quick and flexible solution for your restaurant’s needs, whether it’s tracking attendance, timesheets, or organizing schedules.


Screenshot of the Lark custom workplace page


You can even use our video calling feature to conduct team meetings and interviews and manage day-to-day operations when you’re on the move.

Lark’s blend of communication, collaboration, and operational tools aligns perfectly with the demands of modern restaurant management.

Restaurant management FAQ

How do I reduce food costs in restaurant management?

To reduce food costs, focus on efficient inventory management so you’re not overstocking perishables. Negotiate better prices with your suppliers to lower procurement costs. Minimize waste by monitoring kitchen practices, like tracking ingredient use and exploring ways to repurpose excess food. Regularly reviewing portion sizes will also help you avoid over-serving.

Additionally, analyzing sales data to understand popular dishes and adjusting your menu accordingly can optimize ingredient usage and help you more effectively manage food costs.

What are the most important qualities of a successful restaurant manager?

A successful restaurant manager should have strong leadership skills and people skills, excellent communication abilities, a deep knowledge of customer service, and a passion for the restaurant industry.

The ability to multitask and problem-solve are also critical in an industry that requires managers to put out fires, both metaphorically and sometimes even literally. Being financially savvy is equally important, as managers need to handle budgeting, labor cost control, and profitability to ensure the restaurant’s long-term financial health.

What challenges do restaurant managers face?

Restaurant managers often deal with high staff turnover, which means constantly recruiting and training new staff. Therefore, ensuring consistent service, especially during peak hours and kitchen staff shortages, is another significant challenge.

Managing inventory and supply chain issues can be complicated and unpredictable, as fluctuating demand, supplier reliability, and market trends all impact availability and costs. Moreover, financial pressures, such as ensuring profitability with rising food costs, are constant concerns.

Staying updated on health and safety standards and implementing required changes in their restaurant is another challenge restaurant managers face. This task demands a thorough understanding of regulations and the ability to effectively train staff to maintain a safe and compliant dining environment.

Streamline your restaurant management with Lark

Lark’s all-in-one platform simplifies your restaurant’s daily operations, making it easier to manage shift schedules, inventory, and team communication. It’s the only workspace you need to unlock your restaurant’s potential.

Serve up success — Join Lark today.