Understanding Restaurants: The Manager’s Perspective

Archeologists have recently discovered a cave in Egypt believed to be the first restaurant.  Obviously it would not meet our modern interpretation of a restaurant.  It is clear from inscriptions on the wall that people did come in and were served food.  Barter took place and guests typically ate their food there.  One inscription depicts a number of servers standing in a side station complaining to each other that the manager has not cut the floor.  Some things never change.

While the preceding story is fictitious, it does demonstrate a familiar truth.  Restaurant servers and managers are often puzzled by the actions of each other.  This leads to managers too often viewing servers and lazy and insubordinate.  Servers on the other side view managers too often as lazy and incompetent.  While both can occasionally be true, the more common cause is neither side understanding the perspective of the other.  Both groups have their own competing priorities.  By understanding the priorities a manager must balance, servers can better understand their managers and more positively effect change.

The manager’s three basic priorities are taking care of the guests, the owners, and the staff.  When shown on the Venn diagram it looks like this:

Owners (red):  These are the people that sign the paychecks and keep the manager employed.  This may not just include the owners, but also an entire corporate hierarchy.  Due to their ability to stop sending paychecks to the manager, this circle must be obeyed. (The owners priorities are outlined here)

Guests (yellow):  These are the people that spend the money, which goes to the owner, which is sent back to the manager in the form of a paycheck.  This circle is highly fickle and must be kept satisfied or they will not return.  This circle must be wooed. (The guests priorities were outlined here)

Staff (blue):  This circle takes care of the guests, who spend the money, which goes to the owner, which is sent back to the manager in the form of a paycheck.  This is also the only circle that the manager has some discretion in choosing.  This circle must be motivated.

Each of these three groups has competing priorities of their own.  In order to be effective, managers have to find a way to balance these three groups to achieve the greatest good for the greatest number of groups.  Here are some examples of meeting two of the three groups.

Owners and Guests (orange):  Keeping the restaurant open later.  Opening on holidays.  Offering discounts to drive sales.

Owners and Staff (purple): Cutting the floor when it becomes slow.  Creating sales incentives on high profit items.

Staff and Guests (green): Buying a dessert or drink for a regular guest or those celebrating a special occasion.  Comping heavily on the checks of dissatisfied guests.

Again the goal is to fall into the white area in the center.  Finding the solution that is good for the owners, guests, and servers.  This is highly difficult to do amongst the competing priorities, but not impossible.  In later posts, I will refer back to this as the framework for finding the “win-win-win” for all three groups.

It is possible that a manager will make decisions that serve none of these three groups.  In that case a fourth priority is introduced: laziness.  A manager doing too much to meet that fourth priority will not likely retain staff, guests, or a paycheck for very long.  For this reason I did not include it with the original three priorities.

When you find a manager making a decision you disagree with, look through this diagram.  Determine who the decision is being made for.  This framework will allow you to better understand what their motivations are.  In later posts we will discuss how to most effectively inspire change from managers using this diagram.  This will allow you to best frame your argument and allow you to avoid being the unemployed martyr.

Tomorrow we move onto the owner’s priorities.  Whether you work for a large corporation or the guy cooking in back, it will give you a better understanding of what makes them tick.  In the meantime, check out the posts the prefaced this one.  The guests priorities and the overview of competing priorities.

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About David Hayden

David Hayden is a restaurant marketing and training consultant based in Kansas City, MO. He writes a series of 9 blogs collectively known as The Hospitality Formula Network and is the author of "Tips2: Tips For Improving Your Tips" and "Building Your Brand With Facebook"

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