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Restaurant Management Skills Level Pyramid

It’s difficult to be a restaurant manager. The position requires long hours. A gumbo of personal, organizational, and strategic skills. And it is often considered thankless. But restaurant management can also be incredibly rewarding. Providing quality service and memorable experiences to your guests and employees can make the stress worth it. The leadership skills and qualities needed to be a restaurant manager take time to build and train. This post will give you guidelines to become a good restaurant manager, or to recognize one when you work for them. 

Restaurant Management Skills Pyramid

While researching the topic of restaurant management skills, I came across a helpful and insightful guide on the qualities of a good manager. The Management Skills Level Pyramid was developed by Dr. Kammy Haynes, who has a Ph.D. in Industrial Organizational Psychology and is the CEO of her own management consulting group. She knows her stuff.

Graphic of the Restaurant Management Skill Level Pyramind

Uncorkd’s visualization of the Management Skills Levels Pyramid

Why a pyramid?

The pyramid system is useful because it shows the skills that you need to adopt in order grow and become more successful as a manager. It acknowledges that building skills, and growing a career, take time and effort.

For this post, we’ll separate the different levels of the management pyramid in order to put them in context of the managing a restaurant. Here’s a link to read more about the management skills pyramid if you’re interested.

Level 1 of The Restaurant Management Skills Pyramid

Image of Man Standing By Pyramid to Represent Level 1 of the Restaurant Management Skills Pyramid

The foundational level of the pyramid deals with more tangible skills like planning, organizing, and directing your employees and restaurant. That means the core traits of a successful restaurant manager have to do with being proactive, mindful, and a strong communicator.

Skill 1: Plan

This is most basic level of management. It essentially describes the basic job functions of a manager. Working in a restaurant means the unexpected is to be expected. It’s crucial that a manager takes the time to plan and account for the resources needed to operate a restaurant, such as:

  • Scheduling employees
  • Maintaining inventory levels
  • Hiring and utilizing proper staff
  • Preparing for events

Proper planning comes down to being mindful of what your restaurant requires to run properly each and everyday. When I was still bartending, one manager constantly repeated a mantra, “set yourself up for success.” A good manager sets his employees up for success with proper planning.

Skill 2: Organize

After planning comes organization. How will the plan be executed? It comes down to organization. This includes organizing staff and co-workers into a system that is primed for success and handling the unexpected.

Here are some ways to a restaurant manager establishes organization:

  • Setting up standard operating procedure
    • Steps of service for managing guests
    • Assigning server sections and necessary service staff
    • Establish consistent schedules for breaks or staff meal
    • Putting floor managers in a position to assist service
  • Establishing a chain of command 
    • Who reports to whom?
    • Who should staff talk to about certain complainants?
    • What role does a lead server or bartender play?
  • Create work flow
    • What tasks are employees responsible for?
    • What side work needs to be done to maintain quality service
    • How are check outs performed at the end of the night?

Skill 3: Direct

Direct is the first interpersonal skill in the pyramid. It’s the communication of what you’ve planned and organized. It’s about providing guidance for your staff on a daily basis to ensure they know what the standards and expectations of working at the restaurant are.

Direction is a crucial element of management, and it requires being proactive and open with your employees so there isn’t any uncertainty with the day-to-day tasks they’re responsible for.

  • Communicating goals in pre-shift meetings
  • Building a proper training program
  • Staff accountability
  • Applying consistent standards
  • Delegating responsibilities

For example, if you require your servers to get their side work approved by a manager or lead server, then make sure each server knows the procedure when they begin working for you. You will be able to avoid many issues this way, and also be able to spot underachieving employees quickly.

Skill 4: Control

Control is the myriad systems put in place to monitor and evaluate how the restaurant is operating. Whether it’s tracking financial performance, establishing a depreciating budget for liquor and food purchasing, or ensuring that service is consistent and employees are performing.

Here are some examples of control:

  • Analyzing sales and service reports from POS system
  • Useing an inventory management solution to better take and track inventory
  • Using and reviewing checklists for server and bartender side work
  • Inventory and financial reporting
  • Purchasing budgets
  • Food waste controls

Level 2 of the Restaurant Management Skills Pyramid

If the first level of the pyramid was the head of a good manager, then Level 2 is the heart. This level deals with less operation and clerical skills than level 1. It focuses more on promoting a positive work environment that creates professional and personal growth for your employees.

Skill 5: Motivation

Motivating your employees isn’t an easy task. And there’s no single tactic that will motivate every employee. Sometimes it’s easier to start by identifying things that de-motivate employees than it is to spot successful motivational tactics. Things like a lack of effort from management, poor planning, poor organization, will create a sour work environment.

Essentially, a de-motivating environment is created when management doesn’t display any of the characteristics of a good restaurant manager listed in level 1 of the pyramid.

It’s important to remember that motivation doesn’t have to take the form of rah-rah sports motivation often seen in pop culture. Consistent, good work and responsibility is a good way to motivate people, for example. Motivation doesn’t always require the high energy of a tense moment in a crucial game, or the victory speech before a big battle in Game of Thrones.

Here are some good ways to motivate staff:

  • Employ and reward a high performing staff to motivate others to work hard
  • Allow professional growth by promoting from within
  • Recognize good and hard work, or employees who exceed their basic job duties
  • Listen to feedback from employees and implement their ideas to improve operations
  • Be competent and reliable yourself

You can also implement more competitive elements of motivation to persuade employees to work harder.

  • Sales competitions with a reward
  • Share server or bartender sales numbers
  • Promote good employees to work large parties, events, or other opportunities to earn more money

Skill 6: Training

Training has a lot to do with organization and planning. But execution of training requires good communication and motivation to improve employee skills.

For example, providing insightful wine training is a great to engage employees by giving them the opportunity to learn new information skills that will help them upsell to guests and earn more money.

Here are some ways to implement productive training:

  • Create a training manual and employee handbook
    • This establishes standards right away and can be referenced later
    • Provide helpful information on the wine, beer, spirits, and food served in your restaurant
    • Detail the company culture and expectations for both new employees and management
  • Conduct ongoing training 
    • Invite producer and distributor reps, local influencers, and others to come into the restaurant to train staff in different areas

Wine Training Guide CTA

Skill 7: Coaching

Coaching and training sound similar, but the goals associated with them are different. Training is focused more on practical knowledge and operational procedures. It relates specifically to the products you service and the way your restaurant functions.

Coaching, on the other hand, is focused more on performance and professional growth. It could be giving guidance on how to deal with stressful situations, or dealing with co-worker disagreements.

Coaching also provides insights into how to improve performance, and the logic behind handling situations in order to achieve the best outcome.

Here are some ways to implement coaching in your restaurant:

  • Be observant of your employees moods, behavior, and stress level 
    • This allows you to approach staff who are dealing with a problem and coach them through it before the problem escalates. It can also help prevent staff burnout that can lead to turnover.
  • Explaining why something is done behind
  • Putting their work in the context of achieving goals
  • Mentor employees who want to grow within the restaurant industry

Skill 8: Employee Involvement

Restaurant Wait Staff Training

This is a key skill of being a good restaurant manager. Employees want their voices to be heard. No one wants to feel like they’re just a body at work. Giving employees the opportunity to make suggestions, improve operations, and impact their workplace will go along way towards employee satisfaction and limiting turnover.


  • Hold regular meetings to get feedback from employees
  • When new procedures or features of a restaurant are introduced, survey employees to get their feedback
  • Promote from within
  • Utilize employees non-restaurant skills
    • The restaurant industry is full of multi-talented people. Have someone on staff who is into graphic design create promotional materials for events. Or have a musician on staff curate playlists for the dining room.

Level 3 of the Restaurant Management Skills Pyramid

This set of skills is focused on the manager themselves. While the bulk of management is managing others, how you manage yourself is also important. It will dictate your ability to execute all the skills involved in the first two levels of the pyramid.

Skill 9: Self-Management

This is about knowing yourself.  Your strengths, weaknesses,  and your limits of endurance. Understanding the skills you need to improve on, or which tasks should be delegated is important.

The restaurant industry can be overwhelming for managers. So it’s important not to becoming a load bearing structure, where if you collapse, the whole thing comes crashing down. Taking on a larger work load than possible is not a noble thing, because you’re shorting yourself and your employees.

Here are ways to improve self management:

  • Take time away from the restaurant
  • Delegate tasks
  • Understand your triggers and paint points
  • Communicate issues with other managers
  • Focus on areas you need to improve on
  • Establish personal goals to work towards

Skill 10: Time-Management

Uncorkd Why Managers Quit Restaurant Burnout

When you work in a restaurant, time disappears faster than shift meal. So it’s important to understand how to invest your time when you’re at the restaurant.

Create a schedule that works for you. If lunch service is hectic and it pulls you away from office work, then plan your day accordingly so you can get office tasks done without interruption.

Here are some strategies to improve time management:

  • Make a to-do list each day
  • Set calendar reminders to remind you to finish weekly or unique tasks
  • Delegate tasks that others can do
  • Invest in technology that will ease your workload
  • Keep a consistent schedule when possible

Top Level of the Restaurant Management Skills Pyramid

Congratulations, you’ve reached the summit. Once you can learn to handle the technical, organizational, motivational, and self-management skills required to be a successful restaurant manager, you can focus on the bigger picture.

Top Level: Leadership

Leadership is more than simply managing employees and operations. It’s having the ability to inspire people to work with and alongside you. A good leader executes all the skills of a good manager, but they do it consistently, and with passion, so people are willing to follow them.

It means that your overall vision for the restaurant – what you want to be known for, how you want to be viewed within the community, what experience you want to provide your guests – is consistently served by the strategies employed through the lower levels of the pyramid.

Essentially, a good leader holds their vision accountable to the work that needs to be done to achieve it.

Kyle Thacker

Kyle Thacker

Kyle handles marketing and PR for Uncorkd. Aside from bartending and restaurant management, he's covered the Chicago dining scene as a freelance writer. He enjoys Miller High Life and getting yelled at by Chicagoans for supporting Boston sport's teams.
Kyle Thacker