5 Leadership Traits for a Successful Restaurant Business

publication date: Apr 11, 2024
author/source: Darren Dennington


Leadership is not a position, it's an action.

Across the country, time and time again I am privy to observing some incredible examples of amazing things that strong management teams are doing in their restaurants. Unfortunately, I'm also witnessing the damage that a weak or divided manager team is doing to their restaurants financial picture, operations, employee morale and guest service.

Our wonderful and extremely challenging industry certainly requires strong leaders and here are five leadership traits required for a growing restaurant business.

1. Understanding the Priorities

The waves of business in our industry are hard to predict and the "In Season" time period certainly warrants more attention on operations but the business of the business is what makes the profit. Pushing aside projects such as a menu makeover, implementing weekly inventory, starting a profit and loss statement, employee hand books or training system because you are too busy is an excuse. Restaurant 101 is the focus every day, every shift and every hour but you need to find time to work on the projects that make a major impact on your future.

2. Working on What's Right

It is extremely easy to get caught up in the daily operations of making soup, running food and refilling ice but to take your restaurant to a new level of success someone needs to be working "On the business", not just in it. I beg you to implement a 3 part system so that every employee will know what they are expected to do, have additional projects assigned to them in down time and understand who is responsible for every area of the operation. 1. Checklist 2. Action List 3. Responsibility List. This will involve all of your team to operate the business so the owners and managers can spend time on working Marketing, Growth and Financials to make sure the business is going in the right direction.

3. Knowledge

To lead a great restaurant, your managers need to understand every product, system, program and position. Be sure that the entire management team has the opportunity for proper training and always hold a weekly managers meeting so that everyone is well communicated with.

4. Dedication / Integrity / Respect

When your management team is leading by example and showing the entire staff that they are a team that stands together you will find that the staff is willing to go above and beyond for the betterment of the business. Only when the employees truly respect the business ownership and management are you able to put in place great system that will drive you to the next level.

5. Window / Mirror

When everything is going right, the leader is looking through the window to give praise and thanks to everyone for making this happen. When mistakes are made, the leader is looking in the mirror and saying "what did I do wrong". Your staff knows very well when mistakes were made in the restaurant and the managers that point fingers only make the problems worse. The leaders that can own up to mistakes and quickly find solutions earn the respect of their team and take the positive out of the situation and move forward.

A great restaurant starts and stops with the management team!

Darren Dennington Darren Dennington is the Owner and Founder of Service With Style, a secret shopping service dedicated to restaurants & hospitality. A long time industry veteran, Darren also consults and coaches restaurant operators on their operational and marketing strategies.