Drink Magazine

3 Secrets to Being a Great Bar/restaurant Manager

By Therealbarman @TheRealBarman

I was in a Jack-in-the-Box the other day-not bragging, just saying-and as I was ordering a pair of monster tacos, a mom walked in with three boys between 9-12 years old. As the mom waited in line, the three boys proceeded to turn the Jack in the box full of people into their own personal theme park, dodging each other and weaving in and out of customers while playing a unique game of tag that involved each boy trying to punch the other in the nuts while attempting to protect their own.

The mother? She appeared lost in thought, as if standing in line at the grocery store all by herself as her boys wreaked havoc on the fast food joint. Clueless. Thoughtless. Irresponsible. Mom.

I see managers in bars and restaurants act just like this mom and it makes me want to smack them on the nose with a rolled up newspaper. Bad dog! They are oblivious to the game of "nut-tag" and chaos going on around them with their staff. They don't see their employees standing in the back texting or talking shit about their guests. They are blind to the bartender giving free drinks to their friends, or worse yet, they see it going on but they are too much of a coward to say anything because the bartender is their friend and they don't want to be hated for being the boss.

My point? Managers don't lead anymore. They lack the grit it takes to guide the ship through the squall. It's sickening to witness, because just like children, employees need leadership and boundaries. In fact, they crave them. It gives them a sense security to know there is some form of structure in their place of employment. Without boundaries, they are sent to wander without purpose or plan, like a poodle released into a jungle panthers to fend for himself.


I know this probably scares the shit out of you, but employees are looking to you to lead them and give them a system to follow. Even though they won't say it (and maybe don't even know it), they want your rules and boundaries. They want to participate and to take pride in the place they work, but if nobody leads them there they will allow themselves to fall into a stale routine which means your bar or restaurant will turn into a stale place to visit.

Create systems based on greeting customers, taking orders, opening/closing sidework, inventory management, bookkeeping, recipes, everything you can think of to make your bar/restaurant run more smoothly.

Your establishment is not successful based on the food and drinks you serve. Certainly that's a component, but the longevity of your business relies on the people who work there and the systems you have in place. Period. And if you don't have systems in place to tell them what to do and when to do it, they will do it their way and that system is simply called CHAOS!


Yes, I know, employee meetings are a pain in the ass, but I dare you to find any establishment holding monthly meetings that doesn't know their systems and who doesn't know exactly where they're headed.

Monthly meetings keep everyone focused, and they allow you to get feedback from your employees. Allowing them to contribute to the ideas of the restaurant gets them heavily involved in the success of your business, and at that point, watch the smiles on your guests faces.


Perhaps that offends you. Fine, but 9 times out of 10 the solution to a problem isn't coming up with a "killer happy hour" or stapling bras to the ceiling or any other gimicky idea you have in order to bring people in. It's simply gaining some courage and steering the boat into the eye of the storm in order to take problems head-on and have those conversations that need to happen so that your employees follow a system based on fantastic customer service and standards of accountability that help make the business as successful as it can be.

"But I don't want to micro-manage them," you say. "I want to give them the freedom they need to express themselves and empower them to take responsibility."

Bullshit! The truth is, you just don't want to manage. You fear confrontation. You don't want to rock the boat and your biggest fear is that your employees will hate you.

Sure, if you let them do what they want and wander aimlessly through their shift, they won't hate you, they just won't respect you. In the meantime, the establishment is going to hell.

Sorry, but micro-managing is part of the job. There is a lack-of-leadership epidemic going on in restaurants today that is causing failure and mediocrity to dominate businesses nationwide.

The simple fact is, you need to manage every day, and the more you do it, the easier it will be to maintain. Fall behind and let things go, and you will create a shit storm larger than you can come back from.

Good luck, and cheers, until next time.

The RB

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