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The Evolving Responsibilities of Restaurant Managers

Dining out with friends, family and at times, even alone is always a mood booster! 

When we celebrate we dine out, even when we are feeling low at times we head out to cheer ourselves up. After all, good food or simply even a cup of coffee and a pleasant ambience inevitably does the trick!  The excitement and sheer pleasure derived out of trying out new places and being in restaurant spaces give us the energy kick required. The visuals, the fragrances, the music and the vibe enrich our sense and we’re good to go!  

Has it ever occurred to you, the amount of work restaurant management has to put in to be able to provide this sheer pleasure?! Since the trends in the dining and drinking industry shift every few months, it’s important to think and stay updated about the changes that will be taking place in the businesses of managing restaurants. How does the revamping affect the duties and responsibilities of restaurant managers and what can they do to stay on top of their game. What are the new skillsets involved in being a great Restaurant Manager and what are the challenges these RMs are facing that they couldn’t have seen coming in a million years when they signed up? 

Planning an Event?

Now, for those of us who dine out, we might tend to think that the role of the Restaurant Manager is limited to resolving issues between the staff and the customers when the quality of food isn’t great or the dish isn’t how it was supposed to be and similar other quarrels, but, I assure you the responsibilities of these managers are a lot more than that.

Restaurant Managers have to supervise the daily operations of a restaurant and their responsibilities include hiring and training staff, coordinating employee schedules, ensuring company protocols are being followed. They plan all the menus, check the order supplies, manage budgets and of course resolve customer complaints.

The Restaurant Manager is also like the bridge between the employees and the owners, submitting reports, meeting revenue goals and offering advice on how the business can be run effectively.

Keeping the current global situation of Covid-19 in mind, managers also have to adhere to the safety and norms of social distancing, be extra-careful with sanitation and hygiene facilities and ensure that the business is making adequate revenue.

Blooming Revenue

“Companies that get confused…think their goal is revenue.” – Tim Cook

Now, this might sound a little confusing right? On one hand, I am saying bloom your revenue and in the very next sentence, I am saying “companies get confused when they think their goal is revenue”. Let me clarify. As simply as I can put it, ‘we should and need to focus on things that lead to revenue rather than simply focusing on just the revenue itself.’

Before Covid-19 people were going out at least twice a month, which was great, however, they wouldn’t spend as much per outing in comparison to the people who would go out like twice a year and have like a huge celebration either for birthday parties or on occasions like their anniversaries etc. 

Today the situation is much different, a lot of people prefer ordering in, rather than heading out. After all, we all got to Netflix and chill right?! (if you know, you know :3)

Due to this the average spend per guest has hit the floor, and yet the labour, utility, linen costs per cover and other such operational costs haven’t budged at all. One still needs to allocate and give enough time to customers calling for order in queries or booking and reservations, rent costs are high and to add to it, the competition is on a rise. It doesn’t matter if someone spends Rs. 500 per head or Rs. 2000.

Now if we want to bring in good revenue, we have to ensure we are providing a good customer experience. Customer experience is key, for, in the long run, good customer service is going to cost lesser than bad customer service. Word of mouth is one of the best marketing strategies and if a customer has a delightful experience, they are one bound to come back and they are probably going to share their experience with friends and family and bring them along the next time, who will do the same with their friends and the chain continues. Moreover, great experiences contribute and make people willing to spend more money. 

Pro-tip, as Scott Cook says, “instead of focusing on your competition, focus on your customers.” 

One of the ways you can measure customer experience is by collecting data and analysis this feedback. A famous way to do so is through circulating feedback forms at the end of their experience in the restaurant. Another fact is, if these days one wants to bring in the revenue it’s a lot about pricing your offers carefully and giving them an irresistible offer to “add-on” dishes and drinks, like a one plus one on select options in the menu or a complementary dish if the order exceeds a certain amount etc. 

I was recently at a restaurant in Gurugram and I found an innovative way they had implemented to make money, during the mornings before opening up, occasionally they’d rent out their space or collaborate with brands for shoots, I found the whole concept a win-win for both parties since I was part of the team who’d taken up space for the shoot. A few restaurants also host pop-ups and exhibitions which bring in a new crowd to their space and needs to be catered to. Besides, at the end of the day, cash inflow is the queen of the empire!

Good Relations within Community

It is of utmost importance to create and maintain a good relationship with your community, your producers and suppliers, this interaction is going to impact how your restaurant is positioned in the minds of people, it markets your restaurant’s identity. 

Some, if not a lot of this community are going to be locals and it pays to stay in touch and build an admirable relationship with this team. Focusing on improving this bond with your suppliers also gives an edge into accessing their loyal customers and followers by increasing your customer base. “Together we can do so much!

Besides, a growing need has been noticed for fresh farm produce and organic products and your local suppliers can contribute to this giving you a good deal, reducing your costs and you will be helping the locals by providing them with opportunity for growth. 

As I mentioned above, photo shoots and pop-ups are a great way to generate more revenue and form bonds, in the same way partnering with local businesses and having themed music nights or food tasting events is a fun way to build partnerships and reach more customers. This also an amazing way to have healthy competition and creating trust amongst your relationships.

Part of your job as a restaurant manager involves exploring and being able to cultivate these relationships while designing a model which benefits both the brands you believe in and you. For example’s sake, Blue Tokai as a coffee brand has been able to master this very well by partnering with restaurants and selling their products while promoting the restaurants and helping them grow.

Managing a restaurant effectively is a lot more than maintaining a good relationship with the suppliers, producers and local businesses. It’s also about maintaining a close relationship and open communication with your team which is working on the inside. People coming into the job market nowadays expecting more value than just a salary. There are other aspects which need to be looked after as well, such as, understanding their motivation to work, their emotional needs and more. It’s no surprise you might end up feeling like their parent or even like a therapist at times! and yet, you must adapt to this accordingly because the place isn’t going to run by itself. This is also what’s going to contribute to the retention of your employees.

Optimize Time and Costs, Maximize Occupancy

Often when the place is full, people tend to think ‘this place is probably doing really well! It is full’ and they’re darn right, however, there are so many more ingredients which go into the mix. A restaurant needs to be full three times throughout the night, or the owners are going to roger you with “why are the covers not being maximized?” 

This requires THE ART of taking in reservations and bookings and ensuring that the time a table is left unoccupied is as short as it can be. 

Most importantly, it is the skill to be able to implement all of the above as smoothly as possible, whilst making sure each guest is handled in a manner where they feel special and valued, as they are. It simply cannot, I repeat ‘CANNOT’ construe into a transactional experience for the client. It has to be as smooth as silk, or your reputation is at stake. 

A busy night in the restaurant is like playing a soccer match, you have to have amazing communication and skills on the ground or you’ll lose the ball to the opponent and have them score on you, da-da, game over. You have to be like the Goal Keeper directing all the players, carefully observing the whole match and keeping their spirits high to motivate them to perform to the best of their capabilities. Be at your top game and perform well, otherwise like my coach used to say “it’s going to be a Khichdi’ ” and trust me, not one you enjoy.

Be Tech – Smart

Even with the lockdown partially lifted, this industry, like the rest of the world won’t be able to go back to ‘business as usual’ in the short term. Food ordering, menus and payments are already almost completely digital to minimise human contact, and the quality of service and hygiene are the topmost priority right now.

The first and foremost challenge that restaurant managers will have to address after the COVID pandemic will be the change in consumer behaviour to the very idea of dining out. Countries like Singapore and China have already reduced their seating capacity by 50% to ensure that physical distance is maintained.

There was a post on Instagram recently where fashion brands collaborated with restaurants to put in mannequins wearing designer clothes to occupy seats to depict which seat is not available to use, this was again a win-win for both parties and added to revenue.

It will be critical to implement apps which offer diners and customers online reservation and pre-ordering to manage wait-lists to help minimize table turn-times and contribute to further shortening of the queue of people waiting to be served. 

Restaurants will have to take part in online-based awareness exercises for customers to inform them about the measures and precautions taken by them to ensure the safety of their restaurants. Thermal scanning will have to be mandatory to check temperatures of all, the staff, the diners, the suppliers and the producers.

There are multiple ways to address the change being faced worldwide. The tough bit is going to be implementing the changes in a manner which is fit to ensure safety, hygiene and profitability. It’s only a matter of time and brainstorming before we can enjoy the excitement of being back in the restaurants and cater to families and friends having heart to heart conversations while enjoying a fine meal, well prepared and served.

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