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By: Dr. John T. Self

Developing Managers

What have you done to get this restaurant ahead in the past week? One of the best ways to develop your assistant managers is to challenge them with this question each week. The first time you ask them, they will probably look at you as if you just flew in from Mars. They'll probably say that they have done a lot. They've pulled 5 shifts, did an inventory, and hired 3 employees. They'll probably be quite pleased with themselves.

This is when you just look at them and say no, you didn't mean just keeping the restaurant running. What you meant was what have you done to improve the restaurant? What have you done to make it better?

Now it gets interesting.

Blank stares usually come. A bit of perspiration begins to appear on the brow.


Now is the time to explain about time management, goal setting, projects, and getting ahead.

Most assistant managers are terrible at goal setting and time management. They think they have done a fantastic job if they have gotten through each shift. This is called surviving each shift, which means that nothing more than the minimum could possibly get done during each shift.

The first part of the equation is to have goals for each shift. These could be part of the master goals for the month or they could be independent of them. Either way, without goals, they cannot get the restaurant or themselves ahead. These goals do not mean a free ticket to not have to manage the shift. Not at all. It just means that each manager has priorities for the shift that are expected to be done.

Goals also work hand in hand with time management. There is always some slow time during a shift that could be spent productively, but usually gets wasted. With goals, that time can be spent to get ahead. Funny how that works.

Rather than just chatting about sports or the weather or cars, spend the time accomplishing projects. At the end of each week, your assistants will be amazed at what they can report that they have accomplished. They'll feel great about themselves and will have helped the restaurant get ahead as well as themselves. This never fails to raise morale in the managers. Your employees will notice the changes also and you will probably be surprised at how they will respond to the newfound energy of their managers.

This is a win-win situation for everyone. The assistants will begin to understand that they can get better and will feel great about themselves as they start to become more productive. You will feel better because of the contagious energy in the restaurant, the many projects that are getting done, and the very good feeling when you have helped assistant managers start to take positive steps to becoming general managers.

About the author:  John T. Self is a lecturer at The Collins School of Hospitality Management at California State Polytechnic University (Cal Poly Pomona). Prior to entering academe, Dr. Self spent fifteen years in the restaurant industry. While in the corporate world, he worked for several chains including overseeing six restaurants with sales of over twenty million dollars. He has also owned three independent restaurants. While at Golden Gate University, he started the partnership with Dalian University of Technology in Dalian, China and is continuing in that involvement at Cal Poly.

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