Not all waiters make great restaurant managers

By BigHospitality Writer

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Want, Busboy, Management

The transition from waiter to manager can be difficult, and although it takes extra effort … it is manageable Flush with the congratulations on your promotion, you scan your domain. It looks like table five haven't had their mains yet. Why .

The transition from waiter to manager can be difficult, and although it takes extra effort … it is manageable

Flush with the congratulations on your promotion, you scan your domain. It looks like table five haven't had their mains yet.

Why are those two waiters muttering in a corner? The sommelier comes up to tell you that somebody wants to return an opened bottle of Puligny-Montrachet. What do you do? There's no one to ask any more, it's up to you… The best managers come from working on the floor, they know how things work and how to keep an eye on more than one thing at a time. But not all waiters make great managers.

Overseeing the floor is just the start. Dino Sehovic, manager of Giardinetto in London's Mayfair says, "I've been woken at 3am because the alarm's gone off in the restaurant. If somebody is ill I have to fix the rota. I arrange deliveries and do all the paperwork.

I have to cover all the holes and everybody wants my attention."

Your horizon has to broaden. Stephen Waters, Managing Director of Watershed, a company specialising in training restaurant managers, explains: "Not only are you supposed to manage, you're supposed to have some level of expertise and knowledge of all the other areas too. But when it gets busy, many people bury themselves in the familiar, waiting tables or bartending, leaving the rest of the staff stranded."

This is fatal because it prevents you seeing the whole picture.

It's something that Sehovic considers very important. This is why, unless somebody specifically asks for the manager, he will always take a waiter to one side and give instructions on how to deal with the situation rather than step in and take over.

The relationship with your colleagues can be a minefield. You've gone from being one of the team to being their boss. If you don't tackle this early on, resentments can fester, especially if some staff have been there far longer than you. Once this starts, then you're in real trouble; waiters become surly and demotivated, and the restaurant suffers.

Sehovic recommends that you deal with the situation head on: "When I was promoted I had a meeting with the other staff and explained to them that I was going to be the new manager.

Outside the restaurant we'd be friends, but inside I must do my job. I asked them to be professional at all times."

This is key. Suna Solak, Manager of Black and Blue in Gloucester Road, London, agrees. "If you're telling someone off, you explain to them what the issue is in a quiet, calm and professional way and it's fine."

You must also be flexible. Becoming a manager doesn't mean that you have to run everything personally or bark orders like an over-zealous sergeant-major. It's about knowing people's strengths and weaknesses. Some people will need more explanation, others a soft touch, while some may respond to the parade ground approach better. This is why managing a place where you have been waiting can be helpful.

You'll know the restaurant, the systems and the staff inside out.

Bruno Vitrano, Manager of Paperino's in Glasgow, explains: "It was a great help for me to become a manager in the restaurant where I was a waiter because I knew all the people, all the customers, what they want and so on. When regulars walk in the door I recognise them and look after them, make them feel important, and they really appreciate that."

With all these new responsibilities why take the job? Not for the money, that's for sure. In many fine dining restaurants you won't be earning tips and could end up taking home less than before, even if your salary is higher.

Finally, it's all about planning your career. If you identify a gap in your training – get on a course! If you want to stay in restaurants by becoming a manager, you will learn essential skills and will find them invaluable if you aim to own your restaurant.

If you don't know how to manage, then it won't matter how cool, how foodie or how posh your place is, it won't succeed.

Related topics: People

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