Becoming a Better Restaurant Manager in 2021

Being a restaurant manager in 2021 and beyond means adapting and serving your customers and employees like never before.

The pandemic brought with it many unforeseen challenges, especially in the restaurant industry. Being a restaurant manager in 2021 and beyond means adapting and serving your customers and employees like never before.

Here we’ll outline ways you can become a better restaurant manager despite the global pandemic. 

Attend to your and your employees’ physical and mental health

Although not on the restaurant manager duties checklist, the most crucial aspect of being a leader right now is making sure you’re conscientious of your own and your employees’ well-being.

Should you choose to put health on the sidelines, you’re likely to see more and more employees leaving, and your leadership will take a hit. Check in with your staff frequently and be understanding of additional time off, even if for nothing more than a mental health day.

Additionally, consider planning team activities outside of work to bring everyone closer together. The more tight-knit your team is, the easier it is for them to trust each other and you if something is wrong.

Be extra patient right now, both with yourself and others.

Accommodating customers as a restaurant manager

Restaurant manager qualifications 101 states the customers’ needs come first. This is full of challenges with the changing restaurant landscape amidst a global pandemic. While some customers will be respectful, stress is running high for many more people now, meaning you’re likely to get more screaming customers.

Be prepared to answer questions on your COVID-19 safety protocols as a restaurant manager and the steps you’re taking to ensure your customers’ health. Provide hand sanitizer and disposal masks should they be necessary.

Now, you can’t accommodate everything. Your restaurant has specific unbreakable rules in place that shouldn’t be bent, so remind your staff it’s important to hold their ground when these regulations are challenged.

Menu changes in 2021

One of the best changes you can make as a restaurant manager in a pandemic world is to make critical changes to your menu. This includes prepackaged meals, premixed drinks, more attractive lunch specials, minimizing shared platter options, offering meal boxes for takeout, and so on.

The pandemic means customers want to eat meals touched by as few hands as possible, and they don’t want to risk anyone even breathing near exposed food or drinks. Supplying them with these sanitary options helps put them at ease and prefer your restaurant over others.

Modify your restaurant’s story

77% of consumers agree that brands shouldn’t ignore the pandemic in their marketing efforts. As a restaurant manager, there are distinct changes you can make when it comes to the story your establishment tells.

Consumers want to see efforts that help employees or suppliers, as people recognize the impact this pandemic is having on them. As a restaurant manager, consider giving bonuses to your employees or otherwise helping them out financially, all while recognizing the difficulties they face resulting from COVID-19.

Touchless ordering experience

For many, the thought of touching menus is very uncomfortable, and this may not ever change. To best accommodate your customers and ensure their safety, prioritize a fully digital ordering experience.

This includes online menus, contactless pay (such as Apple or Google pay), and online ordering and delivery. Using your app or website is an excellent starting point, but bringing these features into your physical establishment will be necessary once indoor dining resumes.

As a restaurant manager, consider purchasing tablet devices loaded with your menu and checkout, eliminating the need for physical menus or ordering at a front desk.

Use data

As a restaurant manager, you likely rely on trends from your customers to make decisions. With these trends shifting faster than ever, it’s critical to pool data from different sources to make quick, informed decisions.

Consult your suppliers and other partners to ask for analytics on changes in consumer preferences. Using this data can help speed up the supply chain, reduce labor costs for your restaurant, and enable you to predict and accommodate changes, so you’re prepared for them ahead of time.

In practical terms, this looks something like getting data from your supply chain indicating that plant-based consumption is rising since the start of COVID-19. This equips you with the knowledge needed to add more plant-based items to your menu, order that supply, and start making those foods in time for your customers’ orders.

Handling online reviews as a restaurant manager

While there’s always the risk of negative reviews, the effects may be exacerbated due to the pandemic. People are more likely to turn to online reviews before placing an order with you, as they’ll want to know what accommodations you’re making due to the pandemic.

Among your restaurant manager skills should be responding to all negative reviews with genuine gratitude. Thank your customers for giving you feedback, and always be courteous. The worst thing you could do is start a fight. It’s unprofessional and uncalled for.

That said, remember to empower your staff to hold their ground on certain unbendable practices. Don’t get into the habit of appeasing every customer simply because you’re worried about a poor review. Negative reviews are part of business.

Restaurant managers should target local customers

Since the start of the pandemic, there’s been a massive push to support local businesses. The term “local” takes a whole new meaning now and goes beyond a restaurant in your city. You need to go hyperlocal and market to customers in a 5- or 10-mile radius.

One of the best marketing transitions you can make as a restaurant manager in 2021 is to focus more of your marketing efforts on customers who live very close by. Gather as much location data as you can and provide customers with personally relevant messages.

If you’re located in a small town, consider what makes the town unique and what preferences your community has. Is it a sports team, a local manufacturer, or an aspect of the nightlife?

Similarly, if you’re based out of a massive city like New York or Los Angeles, focus on what makes your specific part of that city special. Your customers will be all the more likely to support you because of it.

One important caveat: depending on the type of restaurant you run, national marketing efforts may still be of critical importance. As a restaurant manager, work towards finding the new balance between local and national marketing. Consult your restaurant general manager where necessary on higher-level strategy.

Final word for restaurant managers

Being a restaurant manager in 2021 and beyond means making some significant modifications. Whether it’s changing your menu, altering your marketing strategy, or modifying the ordering experience, your customers will thank you for keeping the pandemic top-of-mind and looking out for them.


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