How To Spot A Restaurant Employee with High Management Potential

The hospitality industry is built on the backs of its people, which is why internal growth is the cornerstone of restaurant success.  If you are failing to promote from within then you are doing a disservice to your staff and ultimately your business.  Some managers and owners make the mistake of giving promotions to those with tenure, but forget to consider if the respective employee is ready for the responsibilities that come with their new title.  There are also cases of management pushing titles onto staff, whom have no desire for promotion - which usually end in terminations and hostile work environments.  As restaurants expand, their Human Resources practices must as well, recognizing high potential line-level employees (cooks, servers, cashiers, etc) early will only help to cultivate the growth of your business as a whole.   

Great Attitude

A “great attitude” does not always mean “happy all the time”, it implies that he or she has a “does whatever it takes” outlook while at work.  Everyday, service throws curve balls to line-level employees.  Whether it’s an on the fly catering order in the middle of lunch service or the stove pilot decides to not light before peak dinner service, there are obstacles that can really test employees’ ability to keep calm in chaos.  The most capable employees, who overcome these obstacles, usually reveal themselves throughout their time working in the restaurant.  Finding these employees is not difficult, it’s all about paying closer attention to your staff.  Workers who handle challenges that come their way proficiently, tend to go above and beyond in other aspects of service as well.  Maybe they cultivate regulars by remembering their names and orders, coming in a little earlier or staying later to get the job done.  Positivity is definitely a plus, and if that comes with problem management skills and logical thinking in chaos - even better!  These are the employees to watch for potential.  

Exemplary Team Player     

    All of your strongest staff should be team players, if you suspect that even one of them is not, it may be time to rethink your hiring strategy.  As there are accessible systems to keep track of your employees' performance, your restaurant is only as strong as your weakest employee. For the best ones to rise to the occasion they must be surrounded by equally good workers.  For a management potential employee, you need a team player who can teach others how to play the game.  Keep an eye out for ambitious employees, who go ahead of their stations, and are able to help out others who might get in the weeds during a busy service.  Hopefully, you will be able to recognize 1-2 employees with the ability to catch others when they fall, and hustle when their team is in need (which is most of the time).  Exemplary team players will have good rapport with others in the restaurant, and team members will be able to give instances on when these people have stepped up to the plate.  If you see certain employees really flourish, especially under pressure, it would be smart to keep tabs on those ones.  

Has “Sponsors”

 Similarly to the business world, having sponsors in the restaurant industry can get top performing employees to higher positions fast.  Once you believe you have pinpointed one or more high potential employees, speak to their supervising managers, staff they may have trained, and peers who have worked with them side by side.  If any of these sponsors jump at the opportunity to vouch for them, it’s a very good sign.  However, there is always a chance a manager might fear losing a strong team member, and deny an employee’s clearly high performance (fortunately, this is rare).  Still, be diligent about gaining multiple opinions, and always assure managers that if a leading team member is being promoted then you will allow ample time for them to train their successors.  The last thing you need is a bitter manager on your hands.    

Aligned Career Goals

    Now that you see potential in a line-level employee, it’s time to have an open discussion about the management position at hand.  Have his or her current manager arrange a time to meet with you.  Having coffee or a plain 1-on-1 works well for this instance, as long as it is a private conversation to gage honest interest in the promotion.  This conversation could go one of two ways: 1) The employee is elated that he or she has been presented this opportunity, and will happily begin the steps for manager training. 2) The team member may be reluctant to leave their team members behind, may have different career goals or refuse the position for monetary reasons.  (In some cases government subsidies are denied if a household combined salary is over a certain amount, this is very common.)  Layout clear cut expectations, salary range, and benefits of the respective position, and be sure to give them some time to think about it (a week or so is polite).  The worst case scenario is that the person turns down the position, and you have to begin the process again.  If this happens then is always here to help when you are in need qualified talent.  

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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