The Successful Restaurant Manager’s Team-Building Toolkit

As a Restaurant Manager, it’s easy to spend all your hours focused on the immediate tasks of our work: guest satisfaction, keeping operating costs low, staffing and scheduling. Team-building and leadership skills can easily get lost in the weeds of daily operations. The main goal of a restaurant, after all, is the bottom line. But a successful manager recognizes the need for a strong, cohesive team to reach that goal. Without a strong crew, a manager is lost. As the leader, it’s your job to make sure that this group of people, all from various backgrounds and with different skillsets, operates like a well-oiled machine. As the Restaurant Manager, you need to not only cast the vision of the company but help each crew member appreciate the part they play in that vision.

Understandably, many restaurant workers are initially, “just in it for the money,” but to be a truly great team, you need to inspire them to more than just that. Give quality workers other reasons to stay. Respect, synergy, camaraderie, competency, and consistency in work all resonate with strong team players.
Ours is a competitive business. You’ve worked hard to find and hire your crew, now work to build them up and keep them.

Here are 8 ways you can inspire your team and retain restaurant staff:

1. Promote good communication – As their manager, it is your job to make sure everyone is well-informed about things that affect operations. These include goals and deadlines, policy, staff and scheduling changes, menu updates, etc. It’s essential that you communicate well, and remember, good communication is a two-way process.
Be approachable. Create opportunities for conversation. Be receptive to feedback and questions or issues that your people want to address. Two-way dialogue is essential teamwork. It tells people that you respect and value their thoughts. It also staves off gossiping and the spread of false information.

2. Develop strong relationships – If you want LOYALTY from your team, this is where it starts. Get to know members of your team individually—yes, all of them. From bussers to kitchen managers and chefs and from part-time servers to your most apt bartender, connect with each person in some way. The effort you put in to relating with and connecting to your entire team pays off in productivity. If you want a tight-knit and happy team, it’s up to you to set that standard and promote healthy work relationships.

3. Recognize talent and delegate – You hired good people, right? Now trust them to do their job and encourage their growth. Delegation is crucial to good leadership. Your crew will perform better and will be more committed in their roles and responsibilities when they see that their skills and talents are recognized and put to use. When you identify the strengths and goals of each crew member, strategic delegation becomes easier. Your team members grow stronger and are more engage and more gets done. A word of caution though: DO NOT MICROMANAGE. Once you have established that your instinct was correct, and your crew member is adept at the new task, back away. Keep them accountable, of course, but trust them to handle the job. Otherwise, your efforts to build trust will backfire.

4. Handle conflict – There will be conflict; It’s a guarantee. Every work environment has friction; that’s a given. And yes, you’ll become a referee at times. Managing the conflict that rises up between co-workers is bothersome (can’t they just act like adults?) but ignoring it won’t make it go away. Address these disputes and manage them. Left to fester, a petty conflict can grow into dissension and lead to a negative work atmosphere. Such discord can destroy the synergy you’re working hard to create. Soon, your whole team may be adversely affected by the ripple effect. Address and manage disputes so your people feel heard, understood and know you’ll work for resolution.
A note here. The old adage applies: Praise publicly, Criticize privately.

5. Acknowledge hard work – Appreciate your people. Recognize their efforts both individually and as a cohesive team. Did you barely get through the Mother’s Day mayhem on a wing and a prayer? Celebrate! Was the Valentine’s Day evening shift uncommonly smooth this year? Kudos all around! Applaud outside-of-work accomplishments too. If your line cook’s daughter graduates with honors, congratulate him in front of his kitchen team. Did your new server just win his track meet? Have him take a victory lap in the dining room! Don’t be a leader who doesn’t recognize and respect effort or who thinks hard work is just what is expected. Express your appreciation! Without the efforts of your whole team, you are a struggling and soon-to-be failing manager. Value your crew, because people who feel appreciated are more likely to stay with you and accomplish more than you ask.

6. Promote camaraderie – People who view their coworkers as friends or “work family” are much more likely to stay with that company. Create a positive environment where those relationships can occur. At-work and outside-of-work activities can foster such bonds. Simple things such as making side work and cleaning more tolerable with loud music to team-building exercises with room for laughter and fun all help co-workers bond.

7. Be decisive – Strong leaders are strong decision makers. If it aligns with your organization’s values and the needs of your team, make it happen. People want to follow a committed, competent and resolute guide, not one who wavers.
Being decisiveness doesn’t mean you are closed-minded or hesitant to learn new things. It does mean that you have a clear vision of your company’s mission statement and goals. You are able to move your team ahead to achieve the win. Your crew will want to stay with their winning coach.

8. Lead by example – People look up to those who are calling the shots. Be exemplary. Like it or not, you are constantly being watched. They look for your strengths and also your flaws. Don’t expect your team to do or be anything you aren’t willing for yourself. Your team is seeking your guidance, support and coaching, so it’s crucial that you set a high standard. Be consistent. Whatever expectations you have of others, set the example yourself. Behave in the ways you want your team to emulate.

Practiced correctly, this knowledge is an invaluable toolkit for team building. It may force you out of a comfort zone or two. But the resulting growth in your team will be worth your own growing pains. Remember, without a strong team working with you, you’ll be frazzled and flailing in no time.

Build a strong team, be a strong leader.

Brian Bruce, an author of multiple articles published online and in several industry trade publications, has been cited in multiple news stories as an authority in Executive Restaurant Recruiting. He’s an Executive Restaurant Recruiter with HHB Restaurant Recruiting and recruits nationally. He can be reached at 405-361-7582 and by email at

[typeform_embed type=”drawer” url=”” style=”button” button_text=”Send your professional profile to HHB Restaurant Recruiting”]