Management Tips For Effective Restaurant GM’s

Choosing to be a General Manager in hospitality is less of a career choice and more of a lifestyle.  It takes a great amount of dedication, passion, tenacity and an incredible amount of self-sacrifice to do the job well.  GM’s work very long hours, often opening and closing the restaurant; double shifts are not uncommon; and holidays are basically nonexistent since time off is rare. A great majority of your job as a GM is putting out other people’s fires, even if it’s not in your job description.  Every. Single. Day.  So, how do the best of the best make it work?  We combed through our network at, and asked some of our best GM’s how they manage to keep it together in this high-stress position.  Chris Finkenor of LAVO Nightclub, Nikki Pasquale of The Counter, and Tim Meyers of Santina discuss their views on what it takes to be a great GM.  

Set the Standard

 Being a great leader is not just a title, but a series of actions that earn the respect of your team.  Not everyone has the skill set to maintain a team with the decorum of GM’s in the hospitality industry.  The way you manage your space not only trickles down to guests but the entire staff.  Chris Finkenor of LAVO Nightclub explains; “I try to be the first one in and the last one out every night to show [that] a GM that doesn't quit until the last team member has left the building.”  When employees see you working as hard as they do, they recognize it, and will have your back during service.  

According to Nikki Pasquale of The Counter, to be a great GM, you have to be a master of “time management, efficiency, dedication, [and] knowledge [of your restaurant]”.  Honing your management skills sets the standard for your staff that not only do you practice what you preach, but are worthy of their trust and work ethic.  Taking full ownership of your restaurant requires the ability to obtain influence: as Tim Meyers from Santina analogizes, “She [the GM] is a politician lobbying on behalf of owner to landlord; of chef to vendor; of policy to staff.”  As a General Manager, you are the ultimate diplomat, and serve as the liaison from the top (owners, investors) to the bottom (line-level staff and guests).  The life of a GM can be overwhelming at times--well, most of the time.  If you remember to lead how you would want to be led then things will begin to fall into place, and your employees will follow.    

Keep a Positive Attitude, Even in Chaos

Leaving your drama at the door is easier said than done in any profession, but it’s even more important in hospitality when you constantly have face time with guests and staff.  Maintaining your optimism is key, even though you’re down 3 servers and the kitchen fan decided to stop working during dinner service.  Despite the chaos of operations, Meyers claims that a capable GM “[...] will set the mood in every room she enters and [...] know everything there is to know about the store she leads.”  When staff and guests look to you to lead, you must keep calm under pressure no matter the circumstances.  The same goes for whatever situations may arise in your personal life. Finkenor realizes that “[e]xhibiting a positive attitude, day in and day out, [..] leaving whatever is going on outside of work is what makes a solid GM. ”  There are those managers, who might argue an aggressive or even an angry approach is more effective to get things done.  However, at the end of the day, do you want your staff to fear you or respect you? Re-think positivity as the way to go because everyone knows: you catch more flies with honey.  

Never Lose Sight of Your Team

All hospitality spaces are delicate ecosystems that need constant attention to flourish.  Only a competent manager and capable staff can give a restaurant or nightclub the high level of maintenance required.  Meyers stresses the importance of this concept as, [a]n effective General Manager understands her influence and makes a conscious decision to invoke self confidence, positivity and company culture in every interaction that she has with her team.”  Having the awareness that you are the driving force of your team will give you a better perspective on how to delegate and communicate to your team effectively.  Meyers continues,  “I have found that the most effective General Managers do not regard themselves as mentors, but instead earn this title from the team they lead.” GM’s must have the expertise to captivate and lead their staff with purpose.  It takes great skill to command this sort of respect.

Authenticity is a must in this profession, as disingenuous intentions are always picked up by employees. According to Meyers, a solid GM “[...] will not guide with her ego or make the business a place to develop an agenda. Instead the effective General Manager recognizes that the success she is expected to achieve comes from allowing the owner’s vision, the guest, and the team to tell her which area to begin and end her day.”  To not see the value in working towards the success of those around you is a disservice to your team, yourself, and ultimately the business.  It all comes down to realizing that the backbone of this industry is its people.  

Expect to Go Above and Beyond

Working in hospitality is clearly a team effort, and like any sport, no job is too small.  As a GM you have to be capable of doing the jobs of all of your employees, if not better.   Pasquale testifies to this fact explaining that General Managers should, “[a]lways expect to do your job PLUS 10% more {at least].”  There is always work to be done, and when a busser is failing to refill glasses or clear tables, you need to step in.  Expecting the unexpected is a huge part of the job-- according to Pasquale, “[t]ake what you know and your skill set [into consideration], and keep your expectations open 100% because you may have to handle something out of your element.” If a bathroom begins overflowing toilet water into the dining room during a busy service at 10 PM, YOU have to find a solution until a plumber can reach you--all while maintaining your staff, the floor, and ensuring your guests are happy.  At LAVO Nightclub, Finkenor attests to this concept that you cannot be afraid of “getting your hands dirty whether picking up glasses, moving barricades or even helping bus a bunch of tables is what makes [...]” a great GM.  If you believe that any task is “below you”, then being a General Manager is definitely not the job for you.  Great GM’s have the drive and passion to do whatever it takes to keep their spaces up and running.   

Utilize The Tools Around You

    Holding any leadership position in the industry is a challenge, but there are systems that can help you manage your team better and cut costs.  Make sure your team’s schedules are clearly posted and organized.  Some managers swear by Excel; some prefer to use Word; and some still use a pen and paper--but there are better, more modern solutions.  TeamLive is a great option for those managers who are looking to communicate with their team members, create schedules faster and proactively manage track of labor costs all on one platform.  Staff can also communicate on TeamLive to facilitate shift changes, and managers can be notified for permission.  Tools like this can save you what little time you have to spare to focus on running your business.  Also if you have a choice in POS Systems, figure out what is right for you.  Aloha, Digital Dining, and Micros are very popular, but crash easily and take a lot of back-end maintenance.  iOs POS systems are becoming more common: Salido, Brink, and Revel lead the way with their seamless iPad systems.  The only downside is that iPads can be very fragile, which is tough in an industry where equipment durability is a virtue.  However, maintaining the system and changing buttons around are much more user-friendly.  Remember: tools you have will remain just that, unless they are put to work by great managers.  

Love What You Do

      Overall, being a General Manager is a hard job, and requires a special type of person to take on the position.  There is the rush of service, the high from leading a team through a rough shift (or two if working a double), and the thrill of knowing that your efforts make a difference.  After working at The Counter for almost four years, Pasquale attributes her longevity to one statement: “Above all, love what you do”.  Life is too short to not do what you enjoy, and too long to be stuck in a profession you dislike.  At Santina, Meyers sentimentalized, “[a] General Manager loves her restaurant, and because of that each of these tasks, while exhausting, continue to feed the fire she earnestly walks through everyday.”  While the job may be taxing and take some toll on your social life, it’s satisfying for those who have the passion for it.  As a club promoter-turned-GM, Finkenor jests, "[i]f you don't love it, then what are you even doing here?"  Unfortunately, some managers choose to push through the job even if they know it’s not for them, dragging their teams and business through the mud.  So, to those people, do your team and the industry a favor and quit.  Leave it up to the Finkenors, Pasquales and Meyers of the world, who truly love what they do, and are capable of doing it well.

Maria Gee

Maria Gee is a Digital Marketing Manager for  A restaurant worker turned blog-writing-video-directing machine, she aims to educate and entertain those in the hospitality field.  She spends the majority of her spare time posting food pics on Snapchat and Instagram at @mariaalexag, and frequenting as many hospitality focused networking events as she can fit into her calendar.  Feel free to reach her at

Hiring the Best Chef for Your Restaurant (According to Tenured Chefs)

       As a former recruiter of a high-volume restaurant group, I can tell you first hand that hiring great management is a serious challenge, not to mention chefs.  Of course, experience managing a kitchen, efficient in execution, budget consciousness, and training staff are all no brainers in hiring a top notch BOH talent, but once someone takes the reins in your kitchen things can change- fast!  A green chef can sometimes switch it up for better, but more often than not for the worst.  Since it’s too damn hot in the kitchen to just let anyone manage your BOH Team, Harri turned to our vibrant hospitality network to see what some hiring managers / owners might miss in their chef search.

1)   Transparency & Trust

    Like prep before every service, lay out your mise en place …or in this case your honest expectations of the job at hand.  Have a written description ready and make sure that duties of the position actually fit the title.  A “full disclosure of expectations, [and] making sure you are advertising for the right title”, will prevent any confusion during an interview and post hire.  You should not expect an Executive Chef to run food or Kitchen Managers to interact with guests.  This also keeps your interests at heart, as anyone can say a duty is not his/hers but if there is a paper trail, then no one can deny it.

     According to Chef Cash you should also be as upfront as possible with any obstacles your restaurant has faced in its past – high food costs, line-level staffing, inconsistent plates, varied ticket times, paying invoices on time, etc.  Having “transparency in the challenges the restaurant is facing "could be a deal breaker for some, but if a candidate has come across these problems before and solved them, it could [be] true game changer for your overall business.  Since hiring is a two-way street, “be prepared to trust who you hire”. Try your best to throw in questions about integrity (ie. Tell me about a time when your morale was compromised, what did you do? etc).  If this person is taking on a leadership role in your business, having faith in his/her abilities is crucial.  Be sure to not let prior issues cloud your judgment, and lead to micromanagement.  The last thing a great chef wants is someone breathing down his or her neck.    

2)   Belief in Concept

     The best chef in the world has absolutely no value to your restaurant if they have zero interest in the concept.  Chef Landas urges that viable candidates, “at the very least, [should have] a strong interest in the cuisine style of the restaurant”.  Hiring a chef with 5 years experience at a farm-to-table, Italian restaurant will most likely not benefit a Chinese restaurant specializing in Dim Sum.  If your concept’s brand relies heavily on a set menu, make that fact crystal clear to your prospective chef.  Otherwise you could end up with,“ managers and chefs who will try and make the place ‘their own’, deviating from your restaurant’s theme.  A nice way to approach this is keeping the set menu through a certain period of time (maybe a season or quarter) and allowing the new chef to explore creativity through specials. Seeing how well the specials sell can be a good indicator on whether or not to let him/her tweak the menu, before changing it all together.

3)   Ego

     This is a notoriously “touchy” subject, especially with chefs.  Always remember that no one is special enough to treat others with disrespect in your business, most importantly your BOH Team.  Leading a great team in any field requires a certain level of humility, great chefs “should be confident, but not cocky”, and still maintain a “willingness to learn” per Franklin Becker, even at a high level in their careers.  There’s nothing worse than a tenured chef, who comes into a kitchen with no room for compromise.  This attitude is counter-productive and drives kitchens into the ground.  Chef Landas recalls, “I’ve seen many instances where highly qualified chefs scare off good quality staff because they were a**holes”.  The my-way-or-the-highway days are over, even in the best restaurants, look at Noma and Alinea.  They dedicate nights when cooks of all levels can present different dishes to the team and brainstorm menu ideas.

Collaborative mindsets with staff make a huge difference in service, and gaining line-level staff trust is key.  According to Mike Landas, “It’s important to design your interview [process] to see if the candidates will have chemistry with the staff”.  This is where trailing is important, choose your busiest shift and throw them in the mix – brunch and Thurs – Sat @ 7-9 PM dinner service are highly recommended.  After he or she leaves, ask the line-level staff/ cooks, what they think and if they would listen to this person.  If this seems counterintuitive think of it this way: you want to put the best captain at the helm of your ship, it’s best that your kitchen does not become the Titanic, and that all the lifeboats are onboard.





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5 Reasons Why You Should Train Cooks from Within

Staffing a competent BOH team is a constant uphill climb, and just when you think your core crew is established - one of your best cooks gets a “better job” somewhere else or your AM prep guy gets drunk on cooking wine and found sleeping in the kitchen bathroom (true story).  Every restaurant is different, whether it’s full service or fast casual it’s a guarantee that all of them need cooks. The perfect line or prep cook is the unique mix of a work-horse, with killer execution experience, can work 50+ HRs and all for low pay.  Cooks are either amazing and passionate about the job or they’re forced into the profession by life circumstances. Then once you get a good one you do your best to retain them or you’re back in the weeds again.  Which is why training from within is the best way to maintain your BOH Team.

1) They Already Know the Restaurant

    Your dishwashers, runners, bussers and porters are untapped talent, they already know their way around the kitchen. No time wasted with “Where is _____?” and “Where do we put _________ during/ after/ before service?”.  If you need them to put some mise en place in the walkin, they already know where to find the quart containers, tape and markers.  This could take some time for a newer employee to adapt, whereas a current employee already knows this information.

2)  High Accountability

There’s a certain sense of accountability instilled in an employee being promoted from within, and the pressure to not mess up the opportunity is much higher.  Nothing grows the perception of ownership than cross training.  If anyone calls out then everyone can work the same stations because they have done it before, and loyalty grows from there. Training your dishwashers and porters seem tedious, but if you want to build a team who started from the bottom and worked their way up together - it’s the way to go!

3) Creates a Stronger Team

In food pairings there’s a saying, “if grows together goes together”, the saying is the same for strong BOH teams.  Cooks grown from mastering stations from the bottom, build solid teams who have seen it all before, this only occurs with longevity.  It also lights a fire under your current dishwashers’ and porters’ butts to get their careers to the next level.  Also nothing talks like taking off the rubber gloves, putting a knife in someone’s hand and increasing his or her pay rate.  If they really want to learn and your current cooks are about to burnout at 60+ hrs a week, then it’s well worth the extra time for your team’s sake.  

4) Shows off Your Leadership Skills

Taking the time to cultivate in house talent, shows you genuinely care about your people beyond your labor costs and just barely pushing through service. If you’re still worried about wasting your time, then this is a serious test of your leadership skills as well. Chefs and kitchen managers, before believing you’re “too busy” to train a dishwasher or  remember that many of really great chefs began as dishwashers, John Besh, Thomas Keller, Gabrielle Hamilton and Anthony Bourdain to name a few.  You think you’re a strong leader? Turn your most tenured dishwashers into your top line and prep crew.  Chef Daniel Angerer of By Chloe says a good Chef “needs to be an authority, leader, motivator, spokesman, a person to look up to”.

True leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders or in this case great cooks.  

5)  Cultivates a Better Work Culture

As entrepreneur and blonde golden raisin, Richard Branson, once said, “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don't want to”.  The key to retention is solid training and acting in the best interest of your entire team.  A major plus is you never have to worry about fixing flawed training because you trained them all YOUR way. So, there’s no team dividing arguments on how much acid goes on the ceviche or how soft a scramble should be a brunch. The potential of growth is also the easiest way to recruit more dishwashers and runners, then the of challenge of hiring the most eager dishwashers and porters is 86’ed.      




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The 3 Best Ways to Find Cooks

      Finding excellent cooks is one of the most challenging of the restaurant industry.  Cooks are the backbone of every restaurant, they are usually the ones executing the food that brings in revenue. Good cooks are essential to any thriving restaurant.  The best cooks are able to follow instructions accordingly to their respective chefs’ recipes, have some experience (but no ego), know that creativity is reserved for after they prove themselves in the kitchen - all for hourly wages and low pay.  Some of the usual obstacles of recruiting for these difficult positions include: no shows for interviews and training, candidates not looking to stay for a long period of time.  With all of these challenges turnover is high and all chefs need competent cooks - fast! There are better ways than posting on every individual job board and waiting for candidates to come to you.

1. Referrals

    When a position is open, referrals are usually the first route chefs and managers take to get someone through the door, especially for finding skilled cooks.  If your guy on grill is killing it every night and has never called out once, chances are he might know other hard working people like him.  You get his friend through the door from his old job, and she happens to be a beast in prep - problem solved!  However, referrals can be risky just as they are successful.  Be wary of hiring just anyone your employees ask to hire.  Set some parameters and restrictions on who can be referred.  The last thing you want is a husband and wife working in the same space arguing about the kids, while you’re waiting at expo for a steak on the fly because table 12 ordered steak tartare and didn’t know it was supposed to be “raw”.  Referrals are a pretty safe bet for filling a few positions, but if you hire referrals only because you need a “body on the floor” it could be a disaster.   

2. Proper Job Promotion

    Posting on job boards is very effective but posting to multiple job boards is a painstaking process.  If your job happens to be posted on the wrong board then great candidates can miss an opportunity to work for you.  Cooks have hectic schedules and a limited amount of time to apply for new jobs, so more exposure is always better. Harri’s Job Distributor takes all of the strengths of Craigslist, Indeed, ZipRecruiter, CareerJet, Jooble and more, then posts them all at once. You will be able to see your jobs (host, waiter, and chef jobs) right away. You receive the volume and quality of all of the job boards in one place, and it saves you time from posting on each one.  As an extra plus, candidates can use their smartphones to apply through the application, so they can come through your restaurant doors quickly!



Courtesy of @lupulonyc Instagram 

Courtesy of @lupulonyc Instagram 

3. Social Media

    Much like referrals this could be a hit or miss.  Being aware of peak times to post is key for having job ads on social media.  This takes a little more preparation than posting an ad on a job board or asking a cook if he has any friend or past co-workers for referrals.  A good job post on social media must be very image driven.  Usually restaurants collaborate with their marketing or PR Teams to get this completed, then they can use the same ads whenever there are positions to be filled.  For example Chipotle went all out by dedicating an entire Facebook page to gain more candidates, while Lupulo kept it simple with an Instagram post with the positions available.  When posting on Facebook remember to do so with with images and video.  Studies have shown that have 39% more post engagement, than just posting text alone.  If you go the Instagram route then note the most successful times to post are Mon-Thurs from 6AM -12PM. One of the largest drawbacks can be that expense if you don’t have internal resources to create these posts.  Overall, posting positions on social media is effective because almost everyone has a cell phone and the reach is not only instantaneous but shareable.   





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5 Steps to Successfully Onboard Restaurant Employees

Now that you have completed the task of finding and interviewing the right candidate for your restaurant, the next step is onboarding. Studies show that when employees properly onboard staff, it leads to higher satisfaction levels, decreases turnover and high retention rates. Not only do you want to remain compliant, you want to keep potential hires happy and make them feel valued.

Here is a checklist of must-do’s when onboarding your new staff:

#1: Send hires onboarding papers

At Harri, we make this step super simple for you and your employees. Send new hirees offer letters and necessary onboarding documents online. You save both time and money with digital onboarding. (And think about, you probably do not want to deal with piles of paperwork anyway.) In addition, you will be 100% compliant to labor laws. You do not need to stress about putting together an onboarding package because everything is already pre-loaded onto Harri. All you have to do is select whichever forms are needed, and send it over to them digitally.

#2: Plan out an onboarding first day

On the new hires’ first day, they will not know their way around yet, so do give them a tour around the restaurant. After, sit them down once more to review what their jobs’ responsibilities and duties are. They probably will feel like a lot is being thrown at them and it seems daunting. Don’t scare them away on the first day already. Set aside some time during their shift to do an icebreaker session with the rest of the team during mealtime. Provide a welcoming atmosphere for them so that they can get more comfortable with everybody.

#3: Run a trail and stage training

Run a trail (or stog) on the servers, chefs and others during the onboarding period. Remember – It is illegal to stage a candidate unless their onboarding paperwork in 100% complete. Monitor how their work ethic is like during their shifts and how they interact with the rest of the team. Keep note of these things so that at the end of their trial, you can make an informed final decision to hire or not hire the candidate.

#4: Assign mentors to new hires

Before you assign one of your current staff to mentor a new hire, make sure to ask them if they would be willing to take on the position. If they agree so, encourage them to help out their mentees get settled in and get them up to speed with the workings of the restaurant. The new hires can also shadow and learn from their mentors during this time.

#5: Provide feedback on performance

Schedule a meeting at the end of the first shift to go over the new hires’ performance. Things to review include their general performance, attendance, attitude, cooperativeness with the team, amongst other job specific-related details. Do not forget about your staff’s approvals as well. It is important to hear their comments too, since they will be working with the new hires as a team.