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Bar and Restaurant Supervisors: How Important Are They?

About 80%+ of the staff in bars and restaurants are managed by young, junior leaders—but only the top 1% of operators focus adequate time, attention, and training to these critical team members.

Many believe supervisors are every bit as important to the success of a business as the GM. In many cases, supervisors have a greater influence on output, standards maintained, and the quality of hospitality offered to guests. Supervisors define the difference between a GOOD business or a GREAT one; the difference between a struggling business or a stable, profitable asset.

What makes the role so difficult?

We depend on supervisors to make hundreds of important judgment calls each and every shift while upholding the standards of the business. They set the pace on the floor, and their relationships with the staff determine the energy given each night by every member of the team. Entry-level management is often the most difficult and stressful position in a bar or restaurant. I can’t think of another managerial position that comes with as much responsibility, complexity, and real-time variables. It’s the only position that interfaces with every staff member and hundreds of customers each shift.

Despite the fact that supervisors may be in the driver’s seat of a multi-million-dollar business, in most cases, they are offered little training. They’re normally thrust into the position last minute, covering an unexpected departure. We suddenly “promote” someone from the best server—a role in which they thrived—into a floor manager, and then wonder why they’re not happy (“half the money, double the hours for some!).

This is known as the Peter Principle: When we promote someone to their level of incompetence.

As the Supervisor’s Shift Goes, So Goes the Guests’ Experience.

No one accepts the role of a supervisor unless they are brave. Unfortunately, this bravery can get them in over their head. Chances are, these high-achievers won’t ask for the help they need, even when they’re drowning. That would imply they can’t handle the new responsibility—which is not what they want to convey.

The young leader will push forward, often struggling through, inadvertently creating a tense environment for the whole team. Bad habits form quickly, and standards drop. This is the beginning of the end for countless businesses.

What Do Some of the World’s Best Bars Do?

They invest heavily in junior management. Not just money—but time—from the senior leaders and outside mentors. Developing a leadership program is one best investments a hospitality business can make.

In an industry with an astronomical failure rate, there is always much debate as to why. Lists are produced with the “Top 10 Reasons” and often the most important reason doesn’t show up on that list. A critical constraint is the strength of their shift supervisors; the “Field Generals”.

Here are some key components to a robust leadership program:

● Lay out a multi-year path with milestones (36 months is the norm)

● Develop a series of mentors who will meet regularly with new managers

● Have a quarterly learning theme (e.g., Finance, Leadership, etc.)

● Small budget for books and courses

● Exchange program with another venue to get an outside perspective

● Regular 360 evaluations (monthly for first 6 months, then quarterly)

The Secret:

You've got to build a complete business system—you have that in the Business of Bars. The Acceler8 Course will walk you through exactly how to attract, hire, and retain the best employees.

That's the secret: It's a system, not a tool. You can't just do ONE thing differently. You have to change the way you approach your business. You have to be far more patient in the approach and commit to the structure.

Before you put all your efforts into trying to attract and hire great staff members for your team, make sure you’ve clearly defined what leadership looks like in your business.



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