5 Basic Problems of Restaurant Management

Chef adding the final flourish by adding some liquorice flavoured  parsley to the dish. The dish is, pan fried pink duck breast onto a bed of parsnip puree with seasonal autumn vegetables and berries. Colour, horizontal with some copy space, photographed on location in a restaurant on the island of Møn in Denmark.



The manager and the chef thought they had a good idea in cashing in on the prolific local strawberry crop. They worked out an elegant dessert featuring the traditionally favorite fruit. They were obviously chagrined to find such a surplus after the luncheon rush and attributed it to faulty forecasting of customer appetite for such a dish. The chances are much more likely that it was a lack of coordination by management that resulted in the leftovers of this highly perishable item.

For example, did management let all employees “in on” the special, not only telling them about it but creating an interest and enthusiasm for the menu item? Were table tents or colorful menu clip-ons used to call attention to the delectable dessert? Were the hostesses and servers alerted to remind customers that an extra-special treat was in store, recognizing that customers appreciate such suggestions and a large percentage will react by buying?


The most sound promotional items, special events or even changes in policy will not be successful unless there is coordination by management. It is a management responsibility to coordinate and unify all phases of the operation so that they are aimed toward the common goal. As a manager you may choose to communicate information to all personnel at the same time through an employee meeting. Or, you may prefer to go over plans with your supervisory staff and in turn have them talk with those under their jurisdiction. Perhaps different topics will require different handling. The important thing to remember is that you recognize your goal and that you recognize the necessity of communicating—to every employee—his or her role in achieving that goal.



When the manager walks through the kitchen or dining room and observes faulty employee performance, the natural tendency is to complain that “employees simply don’t care; cannot be trusted to carry out their jobs unless someone watches them every minute.” Management should appraise the apparent problem more realistically. The manager is doing a very inadequate job themselves, if the place “falls apart” when they fail to keep an eye on every employee. The real problem in a case of this type can usually be traced back to the fact that the manager has not assigned, with accompanying training and authority, a supervisory staff to oversee the day-to-day job performance of employees.

When employees act as though they don’t care, it is usually a sign that they don’t feel anyone else cares about the way they are doing their jobs. Unless you are a manager with only about a half dozen employees, it won’t be possible to give each employee the needed training, guidance and daily direction necessary for top performance.


Check up on your organizational structure. I recommend a minimum of one supervisor for every 10 to 12 employees. Let me also warn that lack of adequate supervision is frequently one of the key factors leading to problems and failures in the restaurant business. Many books have been written on the selection, training and responsibilities of supervisory personnel. Space prevents a thorough discussion here. These key points, however, are presented as a check list for you in evaluating your supervisory system.

CHECK YOUR ORGANIZATION CHART to see whether there is a supervisory person in charge of each department or phase of operation. For example, depending on your type of food service establishment, you might need a dining room supervisor, a cafeteria counter supervisor, a person directing the work of several cooks. Some of these people may be. “working’ supervisors. However, one person cannot efficiently do two jobs at once. If a cafeteria counter supervisor is slicing the roast beef, that person will not be available to help out with a problem down the line in the dessert or salad section.

SELECT SUPERVISORS from your existing personnel if possible. Be sure to do so on the basis of leadership qualities as opposed to performance of a specific task. For example, the most efficient server may not be the person who would make the best supervisor of other servers. A person may be only fair at cooking, yet may be the best person available to help organize work loads and direct the work of your kitchen staff.

The important thing to remember is that the work of supervising people requires one kind of skill: the work of making salads, baking pies or cashiering requires an entirely different skill. (Fortunately. some of your people may combine both skills.) Your best supervisor is one who gets along well with other people: has an understanding of work to be done: knows how to organize work: has a knack for teaching others: can follow-up and correct performance of others in a constructive manner: is enthusiastic and takes pride in the restaurant as well as in the industry as a whole.

DELEGATE AUTHORITY to the supervisors you have appointed. Assigned responsibility must be backed up with very real authority if the supervisor is to maintain the respect and control of those under his jurisdiction. Employees must have evidence that the organization chart is an honest expression of the chain of command.

TRAIN the people you appoint as supervisors. They must have a thorough understanding of what you expect of them and must know how you want them to do their jobs. Your supervisors will be a help to you in over-all management planning and policy-making as well as day-to-day operation. Your supervisors must continually work with and follow-up on the personnel in their departments: you must continually follow-through with your supervisory staff.

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