Q: We’ve experienced considerable erosion in our margins over the last three years. I’m wondering how much is due to the management team. We’re not the most structured bunch and I wonder if we’re doing the right work or even if we have the right team. What suggestions do you have for us to be more effective?

A:Being a great manager is not natural. Gallup estimates that management selection is wrong 82 percent of the time. In fact, they continue, only one out of 10 people possess the management skills to be a great manager and often they aren’t managers. One out of two workers admits to leaving a job because of a poor manager. This chronic turnover is expensive and disruptive. The owner’s responsibility is developing and retaining an engaged, great management team that will in turn produce an outstanding, motivated employee base.

While management isn’t for everyone there are five areas which Gallup lists as fundamental to a great manager in its must-read study “State of the American Manager:”

1. Great Managers engage and motivate every employee.

A fully engaged and motivated employee is excited about working and performing well. Those who are engaged will statistically produce 50 percent more than an average employee, and their productivity soars. Employee thrive in a work environment where managers create motivational conditions. This will produce higher retention, higher energy, higher sales and higher profits. Guests love energy and feed off a busy restaurant. They become engaged themselves and become regulars, building a healthy and profitable sales base.

2. Great managers assert and overcome obstacle.

Effective communication and pig-headed determination are a combination for a winning team. Being assertive provides a path to state needs and wants clearly, appropriately and respectfully. Restaurants are full of obstacles. The assertive manager will create clarity, pave the way for solutions, obtain discretionary effort from direct reports and achieve results.

3. Great managers nurture a culture of accountability.

It’s often said that holding someone accountable is the work of the manager. Rather, hiring and retaining accountable people is the goal. This creates culture. If a manager must insist on a person being accountable to something, he/she has the wrong person on the team. Accountable people think about how to get a result and when faced with failure own up to it and find better solutions. Great managers identify, hire, teach, and train accountability.

4. Great managers build transparent, trustworthy relationships.

Employees that feel a manager is approachable, trustworthy and genuine tend to be more engaged, make a greater contribution and stay with a team longer. Managers who care and transfer that caring to their crew create win/win situations where employees feel connected and carry out the mission of the business: to serve the guest, be a great teammate and work at a highly motivated and productive level.

5. Great managers make data-driven decisions.

Business is art and science. Emotion and art create a business; science keeps it going. Too much art leads to drama, too much science leads to a contrived, sterile concept. The balance between the two is up to management. The most successful companies are those that guard the art and manage the science. Qualified managers know the balance and make decisions based on data in the best interest of the business and the team. With that balance, the businesses healthy both emotionally and financially.

Evaluate your management team. Identify weaknesses and evaluate whether they are simply ignored or truly weaknesses. You can’t fix a bad manager. If only one in 10 managers are qualified, the odds are against you and likely are at the base of eroding margins. Coach the good ones to be great and your business will experience profitability and margins you only imagined.


For more information on improving profitability and driving sales, contact AMP Services at rbraa@ampservices.com. Rick Braa is the founder of AMP Services, a Seattle restaurant accounting and consulting firm specializing in helping companies grow profitability.