Become a better fast food manager

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Managing a fast food restaurant is a fast-paced, difficult and multi-faceted job. Managers need to lead a team of cooks, cashiers and other employees through the rushes and lulls of daily business while ensuring that every customer gets their meal without a long wait. In addition to pleasing customers, managers have to team up with corporate personnel to keep the restaurant profitable and excelling as part of a larger body.

To lead employees effectively, run the business, meet corporate goals and serve customers, managers have to employ a number of skills. Whether you’re a new manager or an experienced fast food leader, here’s some advice that may help you improve and excel in this challenging line of work.

Hone your business skills  
Traditional retail and business skills are critical for effective fast food managers. These skills include excelling at managing the store’s orders and inventory, developing an effective schedule for all employees and creating a profitable budget.

Through hard work and consistent effort, many fast food managers work their way up from an entry-level position to a managerial role. Although these qualities can help to create an excellent manager over time, it’s important for new managers to develop traditional retail business skills before taking over the role.
David Stengel, manager of a Burger King restaurant in Decatur, Illinois, advised people in his position to think of labor as a form of money, a skill he picked up since becoming the restaurant’s manager. He explained that it’s essential to the financial health of his store to realize when it makes sense to pay a certain number of employees to be working and when it’s smarter to have fewer. Managers need to find that optimal balance of labor and cost without sacrificing any quality for the customers.

In terms of in-store supply, the same rules apply. Managers want to order the correct amount of ingredients for the time period so they won’t run out or have a surplus that could go out of code.

Although some of these skills are truly honed through experience, a great manager can take courses in retail inventory management, talk to other fast food managers in similarly sized communities or seek out optional certification from organizations like the National Restaurant Association.

Being a fast food manager requires a variety of traditional business skills that many outsiders may not think about, including accounting, computer skills and marketing. Talk to your company about training and certification options to improve your managerial capabilities.

Be a leader, not just a boss
Leadership is a crucial aspect of being a better fast food manager. Although some managers choose to rule with an iron fist, this may not be the most effective method for the fast food business. Efficient communication and mutual respect have proven themselves as useful tools for fast food managers looking to improve their businesses’ productivity.

“Effective communication with your staff and other managers is absolutely necessary in the chaotic world of the restaurant industry,” restaurant supplier Food Service Warehouse explained on its website.

One way to improve communication is to regularly meet with your whole team to ensure everyone is on the same page about goals and expectations. This also gives employees a place to voice concerns or questions about the day’s work or long-term plans. Posting these goals in a common space and holding college professor-like office hours can also be helpful ways to hear employees, as well as get your message out. Food Service Warehouse also pointed to encouragement and positive feedback as enormously beneficial to employees.

McDonald’s manager Jennifer Escobar, who works in Downey, California, said that for her, the best communication comes down to patience. This can mean taking the time to explain a task thoroughly or listening to all of an employee’s concerns, even when the restaurant is busy. Although she admitted it was sometimes difficult, she said she’s found the most success leading and communicating when being patient and working with every other employee as part of the team.

Fellow fast food manager Jules, of the Wendy’s in Silverthorne, Colorado, said that managers should think back to when they were first working in fast food before talking to employees. Jules has seen too many other managers talk down to employees because they don’t keep the right perspective – that they were once in that position, too. By putting yourself in their mindset, you might be able to hear and talk to them better. It’s also a great idea to just communicate things as simply as possible, Jules said. That way, miscommunication will be reduced and tasks will be completed quicker.

In addition to effective communication, it’s a good idea to learn teaching and supervisory skills. You want to keep an eye on your employees without making them feel watched and teach them without making them feel like they’re back in school. Talk to your company about interpersonal and leadership programs. Many have summits or retreats that can help managers build on these skills for continual improvement.

Keep the focus on customer service
Though you deal with other employees and corporate personnel as a manager, it’s important to remember who’s most important when running a restaurant – the customer.

Because managers have such multi-faceted jobs, it can be hard to find a medium with working in the back and at the counter. It’s not unusual for managers to take drive-thru orders or help with food preparation at peak hours, but they should also remember that they’re the face of the business. It’s important to take time to talk with customers. Walk around to make sure people dining in are happy and deal with customer concerns as swiftly and friendly as possible. Finding the balance between working behind the scenes and out in the open can be difficult, but it’s critical to customer satisfaction.

Burger King manager David Stengel advised other managers to shrug off rude customers and keep smiling – it’s helped his restaurant attract more business recently.

“Always be completely polite and courteous to all customers,” Stengel said. “It doesn’t matter how they act in response to it. Everybody is treated the same way. I believe that’s one of the key reasons why we’re starting to pick up the business around here that we have been.”

Wendy’s manager Jules, echoed Stengel’s comments and explained that those lessons are critical when training other employees. If you don’t set the best example, employees won’t have the best customer service.

“You have to model the exact behavior you’re looking for,” she advised. You have to go above and beyond and really give [employees] the example that you’re looking for. Then have them model for you and tell them what you’re looking for, and how they can take it one more step above. But, if you don’t model the behavior, and tell them exactly what you want. It isn’t going to work. You need to show them the action you’re looking for.”

Maintain a clean and safe work and dining environment

As a fast food manager, it’s your responsibility to keep the kitchen, dining area and workspaces clean and safe for both employees and customers.

When a space is dirty, not only do people not want to eat at your restaurant, but they may even be at risk of injury. In the dining area, customer spills should be cleaned quickly, even during peak hours. If these areas aren’t cleaned or marked as slippery, a customer may slip and fall, leaving your restaurant potentially vulnerable to a lawsuit and a customer being injured.

Although precautions should be taken in the dining area, the kitchen presents many more hazards to employees. Because of the nature of the work, Jules said that slipping and falling are chief among these injuries.

Slip-resistant footwear can go a long way to helping employees keep their footing even when a surface is slippery. This can help save the employee and the company a lot of pain and health care costs. Additionally, she pointed to improper lifting techniques as a major hazard. Burns and grease burns are also among the most common fast food injuries that managers should look out for.

Precautions, such as nonslip work shoes and heat-resistant gloves, should be used by employees and enforced by management. Managers can also work with their company to install restaurant-specific safety programs, training and protocols for injuries or accidents that are specific to the area or store.

Plan ahead and manage your time
Time management is a skill that some of the best fast food managers possess. Because there are so many tasks and aspects to this job, it can be demanding and daunting to get everything accomplished. Stengel advised managers to show up on time and be flexible.

“Punctuality is a key aspect of time management,” he explained. “And along with punctuality is also the ability to cover shifts if somebody misses work or calls off or anything like that. Being a manager, you really have to be able to come and help out at a moment’s notice.”

Additionally, it’s important to use non-peak hours for cleaning, machine maintenance, meetings and other business tasks. Escobar reminded managers that prioritizing and multitasking can prove invaluable in this fast-paced environment.

Take advantage of these skills to become a great manager
Every manager is different. Some people are fun, gregarious leaders that want every team member to love being at work, while others are quieter, more organized and respectful. Individual personality traits can help you become your own manager. However, improved time management, safety precautions, customer service, communication and business abilities will improve the success of any type of fast food manager.


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