The way restaurant managers interact with their team members on a day-to-day basis often sets the workplace tone. After all, how managers lead can greatly influence whether employees are motivated to follow. Here are six traits of effective managers:

  • Invest in your employees early on – and throughout their tenure. Employees feel valued when management provides tools and resources for training and development. Himmel Hospitality Group in Boston offers “field trips” to area farms to learn about local sourcing. Those interested in wine service can take classes with HHG’s beverage director and work toward becoming a certified sommelier. With top-rate hospitality schools like Johnson & Wales close by, HHG helps send team members to classes, as appropriate.

    At TASTE Restaurant in the Seattle Art Museum, general manager Kristin White welcomes new team members with food and conversation. It’s a chance to get to know the new hire.
  • Set expectations. From the first day employees come on board, K&N Management sets employees up for success by letting them know what managers expect from them. New hires go through 50 hours of training to learn job specifics in line with the company’s five elements of Texas hospitality: friendly, engaging, authentic, harmony and strong work ethic.

    After the first two weeks of training, the company conducts “stay interviews.” “We ask if we’re meeting their expectations, how the job compares with their previous job, and what can we do for them,” said Gini Quiroz, director of team member engagement. After a month, managers make sure they’re on the right track and outline promotion requirements. A Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award recipient, K&N operates four Rudy’s Country Store & Bar-B-Q franchises and owns and operates four Mighty Fine Burgers, Fries and Shakes.
  • Nurture professional development. There’s a lot of satisfaction in watching someone with limited experience grow, says executive vice president Chris Himmel of Himmel Hospital Group. About half the managers at the group’s three restaurants − Grill 23 & Bar, Harvest and Post 390 − started as hourly workers. For example, the beverage director started as a food runner, and the assistant general manager at Grill 23 & Bar began as a server.

    K&N managers discuss career growth in formal evaluations and development plan meetings. Those needing an extra hand can turn to K&N’s Care Program. Three associates are available 24/7 to guide employees, whether it be regarding how to approach their manager about development opportunities, how to handle a relationship problem or how to cope with a loss.
  • Give praise. Appreciation and praise are incredible motivators, said Harry Bond, chairman of Monical’s Pizza, a 65-unit chain based in Bradley, Illinois. The company has received many awards for its organizational culture and retention rates. Bond recommends starting each day with 10 pennies in your left pocket to remind yourself to thank and compliment employees. Each time you praise an employee, move a penny to your right pocket. By the end of the day, all 10 pennies should be in your right pocket.

    Be specific and genuine with recognition rather than offering a generic “good job,” White said. “Pull team members aside and tell them how what they’re doing is making a difference,” she said. When guests rave about a menu item, bring a member of the culinary team tableside. “Nothing is better for a chef than to hear a guest say, ‘You just made my day.’”
  • Respect employees. At TASTE, White builds respect among the team through regular “I love my job” sessions where team members talk about their roles. The firsthand accounts broaden everyone’s perspective so they understand how they support each other. “It’s a wonderful way to see what other people do and acknowledge each other,” White said.

    Understand that employees have a life outside of work. Be sympathetic to occasional lateness due to baby-sitting dilemmas and car problems, said TJ Schier, president of the SMART Restaurant Group, a franchisee of the Dallas-based Which Wich fast-casual sandwich shop. “But it’s a two-way street,” he said. “Team members need to be sympathetic to our business issues and respect that they generally need to be here on time.”
  • Offer expertise. At The Common Man family of restaurants in New Hampshire, new managers go through eight to 10 weeks of training, where they cycle through every position in the restaurant, filling in any knowledge gaps. During a meal rush, when it’s all hands on deck, managers can then pitch in wherever needed to help their team.