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Will the Real Restaurant Leader Please Stand Up?

Managers and leaders. In a restaurant, one pulls, while the other pushes. 

Don't misunderstand me; there are times when you need to push people to get things done, and for that, being in the role of manager would be appropriate. At the basic level, leaders lead the vision, while managers manage the shift.

However, if you want to really take your restaurant to the highest level, then the real restaurant leader must stand up.

You can't sit on the sideline and bark orders; leadership requires being out front. Leaders pull people forward by being the example. 

How do you step up to be the leader? Here are five steps you can take to get you going in the right direction.

1. Understand That Your Emotions Induce Emotions in Others

Understand this: your restaurant is a reflection of you as the leader.

If you are stressed and nervous, your team will be as well. When you stepped into the role of leadership, you also were given a big spotlight that is now on you, always. Leadership comes with responsibilities that perhaps no one discussed with you.

Managing your emotions and energy is one they usually forget to tell you.

We are social creatures that copy and mimic the behavior of the leader. That means the good, the bad, and the ugly as well. Are you constantly upset that people show up for work late? Well, how is your own punctuality? You cannot expect more from your team than you do from yourself.

2. Take Care of You

The restaurant industry can be brutal on managers. You might think that you’re young and you can take it, but you have limitations. If you push yourself without proper self-care, you’ll discover that truth very quickly.

Long-term success in this business means looking at your mind and body like a professional athlete would. You’re a professional, right? Start acting like it.

Stay Active

Go to the gym. Exercise. Sign up for a yoga class. Do something that will push your body to adapt and become stronger. 

Stay Nutritious

Make sure to eat well, too. It is always ironic that many people who work in the food business have terrible eating habits. You are surrounded by food; not eating is just ridiculous.

Stay Well-Read

Train your brain. Just like you need to push your body to become a world class athlete, you must also condition your mind. Reading restaurant books, restaurant blogs, and restaurant industry magazines is a great way to start.

Don’t like to read? Get audiobooks or tune into YouTube. There is no excuse for not learning when you have a world of information at your fingertips.

3. Focus on the Positive

Negativity bias is a condition you must be aware of. You might like to think that you look for the good in your restaurant. If so, you are one of the few. We tend to notice the things not right in our world. 

Try looking for and noticing all the things that are going right in your restaurant. Negativity is like a dark stormy cloud that hangs heavy in a restaurant and pollutes the culture. If you have a toxic culture, a sure symptom is having a bias towards looking at the negative.

Now, this does not mean to look at things in denial or say “it’s not that bad” when it clearly is.

If it’s bad - that’s okay. Accept it and look for positive ways to move forward. 

4. Just Be Yourself

Some think that they have to act a certain way to be effective. Let’s be clear that you will never get to the top of your game pretending to be someone you are not. 

Being yourself, the real you, is the only way to ascend into true leadership. This involves being authentic and being vulnerable. Those two words - authentic and vulnerable - can cause many to have that “deer in headlights” look. Take a deep breath - it’s not as catastrophic as you think.

Being authentic is being you. Now if you worry that people may not like the real you, have you ever tried?

5. Ask, Don’t Order

True leaders understand that influence skills are paramount to success. Influence is built by harnessing the power of a few key ingredients.


Many leaders have the assumption that to be a leader you need to be a jerk. You need to make the team fear you.

It's 2017. This is a surefire way to keep your restaurant turnover rate very high. You’ll spend more time placing help wanted ads and interviewing the very few candidates that apply (because now the word is out that you are not a nice person to work for).

You should never have to demand respect; you should earn it from your team by proving you deserve it. Nothing is given in the restaurant world. 


Trust is the element that makes and breaks teams. Leaders understand this and they diligently work to maintain that with their teams. You must trust your team to do what you expect (which also means having authentic conversations about expectations) and then allowing them to do their job.

If you have to micromanage or bug your team constantly, you either don’t trust them or you might have the wrong people on the team. Trust them, train them, declare your standards, and then allow them to shine. 

Please Stand Up, Please Stand Up

Now that you understand why being a restaurant leader is so important, check out this post on 10 steps towards becoming a restaurant leader and start advancing your career in this industry. 

2017-10-02 00:00:00
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