The most stressful day I spent managing a restaurant started with an electrical fire. The culprit was a frayed power cord on one of my ancient beer coolers. The cord sent sparks flying which set fire to the duct tape that was previously applied to the cord by a well-intentioned Macgyver in a failed-attempt to “fix” the cooler. From there, the fire caught on a empty cardboard liquor box stored underneath the drink well next to the cooler.
After putting out the fire (a shower of baking powder is a quick way to put out small electrical fires, by the way!), both bartenders on the schedule for that night called off. After scrambling to find coverage for the shifts, and being greeted by voicemail after voicemail and unreturned text messages that are quite possibly still lost in space, I realized that I’d be tending bar that night.
From there, I had to pull all the beers from the busted cooler and move them into the walk-in produce cooler. Which the kitchen guys weren’t too happy about.
And then, we got slammed for service. Thankfully I had an all-star bar back to pour beers and open wines for me, which saved the night.
The point of that story? Time is completely out of your control when managing a restaurant.
Everything I had on my to-do list for that day was thrown out the window 15 minutes into my shift. In the alt-reality of restaurants, time doesn’t fly so much as it is devoured mercilessly by countless interruptions and unexpected disasters.
So how can you minimize the damage done by the time-eating Demegorgons that spawn every shift?
By following a strategy that will help you save time on the things that you can control.
By planning ahead and delegating tasks, along with a few other practices, you can stem the tide of unwanted interruptions. Follow these 7 time saving tips for restaurant managers, and find a small sliver of peace in knowing that you’ll be able to handle the disruptions that comes your way.
1. Plan Your Weekly Sprint
Restaurant managers don’t operate on the traditional 9-5 work timeline. But it doesn’t mean that we can’t utilize some of the best practices used in office environments. One of those practices is the weekly sprint. This is a list of items you want to take care of that week. You should prioritize these to know where you should focus your energy first.
Weekly sprints generally focus on a larger project and all the tasks required to finish it.
The project could be reorganizing your liquor room. This might require you to take inventory, re-sort liquor, wine, and beer bottles, put together labels or a map of where to find things, and add additional operational procedures like liquor bottle sign-out sheets, and finally communicate those new systems to your staff.
All of these tasks fall under the same project, and acknowledging every step that goes into completing a project will help you plan time accordingly, and not feel overwhelmed if it takes longer that initially expected.
Aside from large projects, a crucial step of planning weekly sprints is to analyze your past week. Reflecting on service issues that came up, coolers that caught fire, operational weak points that need fixing, will give you a good understanding of what you should prioritize next week.
2. Set Calling Hours for Sales Reps
A nice perk of managing a restaurant is getting to sample new wines, beers, and spirits that your sales reps bring to you. But the cost of that is sales reps popping in to talk with you at their convenience. This can be a real disruption when you have a lot of work to finish. By giving hard time windows to reps for when they can stop by, it can minimize this distraction.
The key is to communicate with your reps. Even requesting that they call or text prior to dropping in can help you plan for visits.
3. Training Staff On Standard Operating Procedures
One of the biggest time-eaters for restaurant managers is the hiring process. The entire process—posting jobs, interviews, on-boarding—only seems to begin anew after it ostensibly ended, like a GIF on endless loop. 36% of restaurant operators identify “staffing as their biggest challenge to success.”
One of the ways to prevent staff turnover is with proper training. And proper training will also help prevent you from wasting time on tasks that your employees are more than capable of handling. Outside of food and beverage training, it’s important to focus training on operational procedures. This makes sure the necessary work is getting done. Here are a few examples and tips for instilling best practices in your staff, that will in turn save restaurant managers time.
- 86 Board: to save time compiling liquor orders, set up an “86” board that bartenders can add items to that are out, or need to be ordered.
- Kitchen Board: like the 86 board for liquor, hang up a white board in the kitchen so employees can write down items that must be ordered, whether it’s produce or straws and napkins, this will save you time building orders.
- Sign Out Sheets for Liquor Room: A great way to supplement liquor inventory is to require that employees who pull liquor from the back room keep a running inventory of everything bottle they pull from storage.
4. Create Check Lists to Delegate Tasks
Bartenders, servers, kitchen staff, and support staff should all have checklists that breakdown the opening and closing duties for shift they work. This prevents you from having to micromanage staff because they are aware of their responsibilities and have documentation that holds them accountable if the duties are not completed.
To take it a step further, you can appointment a lead server for each shift, this should be your closing server or bartender, who is responsible for authorizing that their co-workers have completed all of the duties. This saves you a ton of time towards the end of the night and also is a great way to reward good workers with more responsibility and authority.
5. Utilize Technology
There are countless apps available for the restaurant industry. But are you using any that can help boost your productivity? From reservation apps to scheduling apps, you can remove tedious tasks from your everyday routine.
Consider how you spend time each day, and the management tasks that compromise your workload that you’d like to streamline.
If reprinting wine lists and managing your beverage menus takes up too much time, then consider an app like Uncorkd that help reduce the time spent managing your menus. Uncorkd does more than menu management, with tools to manage inventory, increase your marketing impact, and instant updates to your online menu, identifying your most common issues and seeking out technological solutions can make an incredible impact on how you manage your restaurant.
6. Review Sales Data
Knowing your sales numbers is a crucial way to build a deeper understanding of how your restaurant runs. Looking at the rate of sales for wines or cocktails can impact how often you order certain products. Looking at your table turns and knowing your busiest hours allows you to streamline staffing decisions. By reviewing restaurant data, you can make decisions faster and with more confidence.
Time management means more than assessing productivity and the physical component of completing tasks. It also has a lot to do with the mental aspect of managing a restaurant, which includes the time spent making decisions and stressing about the decisions you’ve made. Knowing your data means less time and energy spent on decision making.
7. Fortress of Solitude
If you have the opportunity to create your own schedule, or influence when you’re scheduled to be at work, then make sure you schedule a time each week that you can be in the restaurant alone. Having time to yourself to get paperwork done, plan for events, or put together training programs will put you in a better position to handle issues with service and staff when they come up.
This most likely means coming in early, before food or drink service starts, so you have time to work without interruption. Creating a fortress of solitude where you can work without distraction is a boon to your time management—both physically and mentally.
- Plan Ahead: Take the time to plan your work and the projects you want to tackle each week. You’ll end up saving a ton of time by streamlining productivity.
- Delegate Tasks: Establishing standard operating procedures and giving employees more responsibility will cut out the need to micromanage your staff and allow you to focus on bigger ticket items.
- Reflect on Your Work: Taking time to asses your day-to-day tasks, issues in the restaurant, and review restaurant data will help you decide on solutions for problems both big and small. Reflection is key to moving forward and tackling the issues that lay ahead.
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