How to Achieve a Work-Life Balance as a Hospitality Manager

Maintaining the ideal work-life balance is difficult for nearly all professionals, especially in the 24/7 world of hospitality.  Keeping your personal and restaurant life in check is no easy task if you have one day off a week and are otherwise “on” the rest of the time.  Taking some steps to avoid taking on more than you can chew can help you from feeling overwhelmed.  Many people will argue that being a restaurant manager is a not just a hospitality job, but a stressful lifestyle.  However, there are some steps you can take a to make a difference and lift (at least some) stress off your shoulders.    

Put YOU First

    Yes, hospitality is the ultimate team sport and as a hospitality manager you are the captain.  With that being said, self-care is not selfish.  If you’re the type of person who lives and breathes by his or her calendar, check if you have any space at all for the upcoming week to “recharge”.  Maintain your sanity by doing something for YOU each day, even if it’s for 15 mins - grab a coffee, go for a walk, even call your family (remember them?).  Of course, saying you will do it is only halfway there, hence your calendar.  Actively schedule 15 - 30 mins of “Me Time” once a day, slowly but surely your eyebrows will begin to unfurrow and you’ll spare a few hairs from going grey.  Even better, schedule a workout or some downtime before your shift.  Preventing yourself from getting overly stressed, seems unavoidable on a Friday at at 8 PM when you’re 2 servers and 3 cooks down.  Trust that when you invest a little bit of time to re-energize yourself, and put your needs first then everything falls into place.  

Relearning the word “No”

    Being a restaurant manager means you spend a majority of your day putting out everyone else’s fires.  It comes with the territory, that’s something we cannot help.  However, having the “Don’t worry, I got this” attitude towards everything can take its toll on your life.  This is especially true of digging staff out of holes, there are times when you have to let staff figure out some problems for themselves.  If a host does not have table numbers memorized four weeks in, then you need to delegate to a more senior host or maitre’d in the meantime, instead of seating guests yourself (then obviously reevaluate his or her training). Sure, doing things a certain way is important, but it is a true testament to your management skills when staff can navigate themselves through a service.  Saying “no” to certain tasks can be a gift sometimes, and certainly if you’re holding down the fort for a double shift. If you are more visual, using your calendar to approximate task timelines can be extremely useful.  The fear of letting your restaurant and staff down may keep you from saying no, this is not the case at all.  Realizing your limitations is more efficient to yourself, the restaurant, and the quality of the service.

Prioritizing Effectively

    Maybe managing calendars is not your thing.  Let’s put your MBA in Philosophy and concentration in Metaphysics to good use right now, just kidding (kind of). Think of your life as a jar.  Place some large rocks the jar to reach the top, it seems full right? Some would say so, but now picture placing smaller rocks into the jar, then pouring in gravel, sand and finally water until the jar’s contents are up to the brim.  Now it’s actually full.  The lesson of the jar metaphor is to begin with larger priorities and work to the smallest tasks, or not everything will fit into your life.  If you began with water, the whole jar would overflow if you dropped even one large rock in.  To put this lesson in action, simplify your life by starting with the big stuff first.   Write down 3 “big” tasks or decisions you must accomplish everyday, then follow with less important tasks, smaller tasks, then fun, etc.  Even if you make the list in your phone on the train during your commute to work, it will set you up for a productive shift.

Just Get It Done

    Even though Sheryl Sandberg is not on the floor of a restaurant on a daily basis, in her widely discussed book, Lean In, the COO of Facebook, writes about a poster in the Facebook offices that reads, “Done is better than Perfect”.  Getting a task done is usually better than scrutinizing over its imperfections.  Many people describe themselves as perfectionists, hospitality managers are no exception.  While this trait can be positive, it can inhibit getting things done in a timely manner.  Sure, your new server on Table 22 served drinks to the man before the woman who are clearly on a date, and it makes your eye twitch with annoyance.  However, you can address that at pre-shift tomorrow to all of your servers, because you have 10 minutes to write your shift notes before close which is more important.  Of course, quality is extremely important, but time is everything.  If the server completely forgot to put in the order the couple’s drinks, causing them to walk out, that would be a different story.  The mission is to get everything done as well and efficiently as possible, but know that done is indeed better than perfect.  

Logout of Your Work Email

    Being hopelessly addicted to glowing screens is the plight of our generation in the workplace, we are extremely fortunate in this sense.  As great as accessibility can be, constantly being “on” can be less than helpful when trying to maintain a better work-life balance.  When you have left your shift and sent your last email, immediately logout of your work email.  If there is a real emergency in the restaurant then the manager on duty is perfectly capable of calling or texting you.  There are various studies show that our brain activity increases from looking at screens all day, and your smartphone is as addictive as some drugs and alcohol.  So, obviously receiving continuous notifications from work emails can amplify this.  The worst thing you can do is still be logged into you your work email on your day off and being active on it! This creates the idea that you are always “on” and never stop working.   Then no one will leave you alone, making for a terrible day off.  So for your staff and your own sanity, save your emails and tasks for in restaurant only - or as much as you can.  The key to a healthy work-life balance is changing things a little at a time, and at the end of the day it’s all about progress.

Still trying to balance recruiting, your restaurant, and a personal life? Check out Harri!