Table of contents
  1. How To Hire, Train, Care For and Motivate Staff
  2. Enhance Guest Experience
  3. Create a Buzz Through Marketing
  4. Embrace Technology
  5. Conclusion

Despite the difficulty in breaking into the restaurant industry, each year thousands of small business owners open their own restaurant.

Many do it out of a passion for creating culinary masterpieces, while others see it as an opportunity to make a name for themselves within the restaurant industry.

In this article, you’ll learn how to turn your labor of love into a successful and lasting restaurant, including how to:

  • Hire, train, care for and motivate staff
  • Enhance guest experience
  • Market your business
  • Embrace technology

How To Hire, Train, Care For and Motivate Staff

In order to run a restaurant successfully, you should focus on hiring, training, and motivating staff members.

Without staff, your restaurant will not be able to function. Following the global pandemic, many restaurants have been left struggling without qualified serving and kitchen staff.

According to the National Restaurant Association, two-thirds of restaurants are still understaffed because of job layoffs caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Even now, 62% of operators in the restaurant business say that they are 10% below “necessary staffing levels.” 

Onboarding new staff can provide an opportunity for you to implement systems that will foster engagement. Providing a good experience for staff from the moment you hire them can lead to better retention and more motivated employees. 

Hiring

The first step is to bring in the right people to help you grow your business.

“For the kitchen staff, [Fort 88’s] Chef Charley focuses on hiring someone who is teachable with a positive attitude over someone with years of experience,” a representative of Kelsey Stief, the owner of Ohio gastropub Fort 88, told Connecteam when asked how to run a restaurant. 

Looking for those intangible soft skills in a job applicant, like teachability and a good attitude, can be your first step in finding an outstanding employee.

Throughout the interview process, you can discover which other soft skills a candidate has.

Asking open-ended questions that challenge a candidate’s critical thinking and communication skills—which are essential serving staff skills—might help you find the perfect employee.

Training

Many restaurant owners are so focused on the day-to-day operations of how to run a restaurant that they overlook training their employees.

Your best opportunity as a manager to train a new employee is when they first walk in the door. Still, many business owners choose to delegate training responsibilities to other employees.

Chris Bidmead, a 16-year veteran of the hospitality industry, explains the struggle restaurant owners have with training staff.

“Much of this comes from a lack of bandwidth, with management and more senior people needing to focus on keeping the doors open and not having the opportunity to train.”

“The ‘warm bodies’ in the room are doing their best but can’t benefit from the knowledge of those around them because it’s not available.”

In this situation, new employees can feel isolated from other employees and underappreciated by management because of their lack of knowledge and experience.

This can lead to stress, burnout, and high staff turnover.

Fort 88’s Kelsey Stief prioritizes people over profits in running her restaurant. Her philosophy is that if you treat your employees well, this will eventually “translate to customer satisfaction.”

She accomplishes this by training her employees to be successful in both customer service and in sales.

Servers at her restaurant are not only able to provide a service but can give advice on dishes and even upsell certain menu items to customers.

Stief explains that “[b]y upselling in a way that is consultative instead of aggressive, the customer gets a better experience, and that encourages higher profits.”

When developing your training, you should also:

  • Teach staff to prioritize creating an outstanding guest experience, starting with a place setting. Crisply folded napkins and intricately placed silverware and plates show that a lot of care and attention went into making your guests feel welcome
  • Allow new employees to shadow more experienced employees, learning the ropes from them.

Allen Bixby, a successful former restaurant owner, says that modeling good behavior is key to keeping your restaurant running smoothly.

“I found an expectation of courtesy, always say please, always say thank you, was a huge first step to smoother production and service.”

It may sound simple, but being polite to your employees creates a better working environment.

Seamlessly onboard new staff and train them into experienced servers

With Connecteam’s Food & Beverage Management App, you can create a digital onboarding hub accessible to all new employees.

Incentivizing your employees

Restaurant workers want to be invested in the company’s success.

Brian Nagele, CEO of Restaurant Clicks, shares that financial transparency can encourage employee interest in the day-to-day operations of the business.

“In my experience, opening the books to hourly staff has always led to a more engaged team that is invested in the restaurant’s success,” Naegle told Connecteam when asked how to run a restaurant.

“It makes sense; after all, your restaurant is their livelihood, too.”

Naegle explains that this creates a partnership mentality within your employees, especially as you share with them details such as “food cost, labor cost, and check average mean, and how hitting or missing those targets affects your business.”

Another way to incentivize your employees is to offer awards based on their performance.

You can track your employees’ performance using a restaurant management system, discovering who has waited on the most tables, sold the highest total price of items, or sold the highest quantity of items.

You could even reward those who have been able to bundle items through discounts, allowing customers to purchase more. 

Equally, you might like to establish an Employee of the Month award, placing the photo of each month’s top employee on a bulletin board.

You could also offer a cash or in-kind reward to the server who has achieved this. 

Preventing burnout

Because of the high demands of the job, restaurant owners and staff may experience burnout.

Consequently, you should have a plan that will allow you all to rest and recharge as appropriate.

Brian Nagele suggests scheduling some time off: “Close the restaurant for a shift or a whole day if you can to give your team a break.”

Naegle also suggests making amends with anyone that you might have been frustrated with or snapped at.

You work in a high-stress environment, and it’s not uncommon to feel exasperated at the moment. Apologizing can go a long way toward mending your relationship with your employees. 

In order to create a better work environment, be proactive and examine any major stressors and work to get rid of them.

These might include: 

  • Negative feedback from guests and other staff
  • Interpersonal issues caused by working closely with other staff
  • Inadequate preparation before busy periods
  • High employee turnover. 

Some of these may be out of your control—you can’t anticipate when a guest may act negatively towards a server, for instance—but you can work to mitigate the amount of stress your employees feel.

For example, you may choose to share out any tips accrued in order to avoid infighting between servers vying to wait on large parties of guests.

You may also seek to tighten up your preparation before busy periods.

Communication

According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, good communication is critical when motivating employees, and this is also true when considering how to run a restaurant.

This helps managers strengthen relationships with their employees while also ensuring that everyone is on the same page.

Clearly explaining employee expectations creates a less stressful work environment, helping to prevent employee burnout and turnover.

Scheduling regular check-ins with your staff will help you to look after their well-being and discover ways to further motivate them.

Chris Bidmead says, “[g]ood communication structures avoid silly mistakes, save steps in service, promote the business, and lead to a generally less stressful environment.”

Enhance Guest Experience

One major shift in philosophy within the restaurant industry has been viewing customers as guests.

Allen Bixby says that they are “[n]ot customers, not clients, not diners, but guests”, and that you must “develop the mindset that these people are guests in your home, certainly in your establishment.”

You should create a unique and inviting experience for your guests from the moment they park their car to the moment they leave.

Each guest in your restaurant should feel that you’ve exceeded their expectations. If and when mistakes happen, you should be honest and share the mistake, while also coming up with a solution to fix the problem.

This lets guests know that they are your priority. 

You can also elevate the guest experience by pursuing excellence in your food.

Having a high standard for the food you produce can differentiate you from similar restaurants in your market.

Create a Buzz Through Marketing

A restaurant can’t grow by word-of-mouth alone; it needs dedicated marketing efforts to get new customers interested.

The first step in your marketing strategy should involve defining your brand.

What’s distinctive about your restaurant that will make people talk about it and want to come back?

Use social media to highlight your uniqueness, showcasing photos and videos so that new customers will be intrigued and want to visit. 

Brian Naegle shares four major components of marketing within the restaurant industry:

  1. Creating brand awareness: You need to stand out from your competition, especially if there are other restaurants like yours in your community. Your brand should be developed from your own passion for food and what you want your restaurant to represent. It should also be something that is recognizable to guests. For example, there may be dozens of BBQ restaurants in your city, but you might like to focus on Kansas City BBQ to differentiate yourself. 
  2. Attracting new customers: Large-scale marketing campaigns both in print and online can help to get the word out about your new restaurant.
  3. Keeping loyal customers: One way to keep loyal customers is to create a welcoming environment inside your restaurant. Encourage staff to get to know the names of regular attendees.
  4. Maximizing customer spending: Teach your serving staff to be salespeople and provide them with the expertise to guide guests towards unique and more expensive menu items.

Embrace Technology

Technology can help you run your restaurant by helping you organize your business, streamline staff training, and make scheduling easy. Brian Naegle states:

“Don’t fear technology. If your staff consists of people in their twenties to early thirties, you’re dealing with people who were encouraged to use smartphones in school and who have come of age in technological boom times.”

“Use this to your advantage and give them the tech they need to do their jobs efficiently and well.”

Naegle also suggests purchasing a point-of-sale (POS) system, as they are relatively inexpensive.

POS systems allow you to track your sales, inventory, and how much each customer spent. You can then collate this data and gain valuable information.

For example, you can learn which items are the most popular and which times of day are your busiest.

This data can then inform how you could alter your menu to fit the tastes of your guests, as well as how you could schedule your employees. 

Consider also investing in Connecteam’s all-in-one food and beverage app, which enables you to store an online onboarding hub, use one secure, shared device for clocking in, and monitor timesheets and scheduling.

The interface is also easy to navigate, allowing those who are not tech-savvy to pick it up easily.

Conclusion

In order to succeed in the food service industry, you’ll need to equip and motivate your staff. 

You should provide adequate training, check in on them to prevent burnout, and foster open communication.

You can also continue to build your brand through the use of print and online marketing and use technology to make your day-to-day tasks easier.

By following these tips, you can create a successful business focused on providing the best service for your guests.