Ken Burgin

Restaurant Manager

Have you chosen the wrong person to be manager?

Henry Mintzberg, the great management writer talked about the real work of managers, and saw the following characteristics of their work:

  • They perform a great quantity of work at an unrelenting pace – they are busy!
  • Their work is marked by variety, brevity and fragmentation – lots of short activities.
  • They prefer to manage issues that are current, specific and non-routine (rather than planning for the future).
  • They prefer verbal rather than written communication – tell me, don’t write to me!
  • They have a network of internal and external contacts – they are well connected.
  • They are subject to heavy constraints but can exert some control over the work.

Before we go into more detail, remember to distinguish the work of a ‘manager’ from that of a ‘supervisor’. The manager’s job is to plan for the future, provide resources and improve facilities, delegating most of the daily operational tasks. The supervisor’s role is to ensure customer satisfaction, lead and train teams of workers and develop solutions to problems. Too many times in hospitality, supervisors are given the title of ‘manager’ with few of the skills or responsibilities that should come with that title. They’re flattered to be given it, and then disappointed that it just seems to be frustration and more hard work. Noticed the ads for ‘hands-on manager’? These usually indicate a supervisor position with a fancy title.

Mintzberg saw the manager’s role divided into 3 main areas, and in considering the performance of your manager, you may want to give them a score on each of the following 10 factors:

Interpersonal roles:

1. Figurehead – the person who is identified as the face of the organisation
2. Leader – motivating staff and uniting their efforts
3. Liaison – maintaining contacts and co-operation ‘sideways’ with other departments

 Information roles:

4. Keep track of information flow – reports, news, results and figures
5. Communicator of information to staff – keep them in touch with what they need to know
6. Spokesperson for the organisation – ready and able to represent the business and answer questions

 Decision-maker roles:

7. Entrepreneur – initiator and designer of change in the business – able to develop new directions and initiatives
8. Disturbance handler – dealing with problems, conflict and the unexpected
9. Resource allocator – deciding who gets what and who will do what. Managing a budget and allocation of staff
10. Negotiator – negotiating with suppliers, customers and staff

Effectiveness depends not only on a manager embodying these necessary qualities, but also his or her insight into the quality of their own work

Is this a superstar? Maybe the lack of ability in some of these key areas is at the heart of your manager’s ‘performance’. And maybe their lack of insight into the quality of their work means they keep repeating the same mistakes. But before we start to condemn or criticise, let’s analyse the issue a little more, using the following table:

The Problem:What’s needed:Solution:
1. Can’t do itAptitudeBetter selection
2. Don’t know what to doInformationCommunication
3. Don’t know how to do itKnowledge and skillsTraining
4. Don’t want toMotivationIncentive – pain or gain

For example, a Function Manager who has poor sales results may not have the aptitude or personality for selling (1) and the solution is usually better selection rather than training that may never produce the confidence needed.

A bar manager who’s been promoted to run a team may be happier just looking after customers.

A waiter who can’t describe the food is usually lacking information (2), and communication is usually the solution. Training (3) will assist someone who doesn’t know how to do pan cooking or how to make cocktails quickly. When motivation or willingness is lacking (4), there is usually a lack of consequences or incentives – bonuses or praise as positives, or the threat of shift changes or loss of work as negatives. Why should they lift their game if there’s no reason to change?

Now think back to your Manager who’s not handling one or more of the ten tasks listed above – is training the solution, or better selection, communication or incentives? Maybe they are just in the wrong job. It would be easy to blame the floundering manager, but the problem may have arisen because of hurried or careless selection, or lack of support for them to do the job properly. Over to you!

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